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Read About Addison's Disease

Common Disease Name:

Addison's Disease

Medical Term for Disease:


Species Affected by Disease:

Dogs and cats

Age Animal Usually Affected:

Younger Dogs of an average age of four to five years are more commonly affected than older dogs.

ImageCommonly Affected Breeds:

Any breed of dog can develop Addison's. At increased risk are the Great Dane, Rottweiler, Portuguese water dog, standard poodle, West Highland white terrier, and Wheaten terrier.

Sex Usually Affected:

Female dogs are more likely to develop Addison's disease. Cats- either sex

Disease Symptoms:

The common symptoms of Addison's disease are not very specific, and can include lack of appetite, a thin body condition, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, dark stool, low body temperature, slow heart rate, hair loss, weakness, increased thirst and urination, signs that come and go over time, trembling or shaking, and abdominal pain. Most are diagnosed when an Addisonian crisis develops and shock and collapse can occur.

Methods) of Diagnosis:

Veterinarian visit

Disease Causes:

The adrenal glands are two small glands located along side each kidney. These glands primarily produce steroid hormones. Two of these hormones are glucocorticoids and mineral corticoids. Addison's disease results from the decreased production of steroid hormones by the adrenal glands. It is thought that the most common cause of adrenal gland failure is immune mediated destruction, which is when the body's immune system reacts as if the adrenal glands are a foreign substance, attacks and destroys the glands. Other causes can include infection or inflammation in the glands, blood supply problems, bleeding or cancer cells within the glands, the deposition of abnormal proteins within the adrenal gland, or physical trauma to the glands. Rapid withdrawal of drugs such as prednisone after chronic administration and overdoses of drugs used to treat Cushing's disease can result in adrenal gland failure. Secondary adrenal gland failure can occur due to primary problems in either the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland, which have a direct effect on the adrenal glands.


The treatment of dogs with Addison's disease depends on the severity of the presenting signs. Many dogs diagnosed with Addison's disease are severely ill at the time of presentation, often with potentially life-threatening fluid and electrolyte concentrations. These dogs must receive immediate medical attention in order to be stabilized. This is an emergency! Once the crisis period has passed, dogs are given either oral or injectable mineralocorticods. The oral medications need to be given on a daily basis, usually twice a day, and sometimes very high doses are needed to control the disease. The injectable mineralocorticoid used most commonly is called DOCP. It is given via injection approximately every 25 days, and is almost always effective. For many dogs, especially large breed dogs, the injectable drug is much less expensive than the oral form. Most dogs with Addison's disease do well clinically with mineralocorticoid replacement alone, but others will require glucocorticoid supplementation with prednisone as well.


With appropriate medical treatment, the long-term outlook for dogs with Addison's disease is excellent.


Excessive water drinking and urination develops in some dogs from prednisone medication, and drugs must be decreased or discontinued.


Except for cases caused by rapid stopping prednisone or other steroids that have been used for long periods of time, there is no known prevention of the development of Addison's disease. Hormonal replacement therapy must be continued for the life of the dog. Glucocorticoid doses must be increased during periods of stress such as travel, hospitalization, and surgery.

Medicines Used for Treatment of Disease:

Acute Addisonian crisis: I.V. fluids and steroids to correct fluid and electrolyte imbalance; sometimes specific measures to lower potentially fatal high serum potassium levels, such as the administration of glucose and insulin, calcium, and sodium bicarbonate. Once the crisis period has passed, dogs are given either oral or injectable mineral corticoids (fludrocortisone acetate or DOCP). Glucocorticoid replacement (prednisone) is often needed as well.

Helpful Products:

Pet bed, crate, toys, and cleaning products.