Addison’s disease, or hypoadrenocorticism, is a rare condition that affects dogs and cats when the adrenal glands, which are situated just above the kidneys, become deficient in producing hormones such as mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids. These hormones are essential to life and changes in them can cause serious risks to your pet’s life. Addison’s disease is often referred to as The Great Pretender as the symptoms can be very vague and often mimic other diseases.
Addison’s disease can affect dogs of any age but tends to most commonly be seen in young female dogs between the ages of 1-4. Any breed is susceptible, but some breeds such as Poodles may have a genetic component. Very rarely does it affect cats.
Signs of Addison’s disease can range from very mild at the beginning to life-threatening if the pet is in an Addisonian crisis. Symptoms can include weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, blood in the stool, lethargy, dehydration, shaking, and weakness. If you are ever concerned your pet may have Addison’s disease, please contact a veterinarian immediately.
Your veterinarian will start by getting a thorough history, running some bloodwork tests, and a urinalysis.
If dogs present in an Addisonian crisis, they will need hospitalization and supportive care. Once they have been stabilized, they will need medications to replace the hormone deficiency for the rest of their life which will require regular follow up visits with their veterinarian. Most pets diagnosed with Addison’s disease have a very good prognosis and can return to a normal quality of life.
Written by: Dr. Sarah Wells, Veterinarian