What Is Addison's Disease in Dogs?

Diagnostic Clues

Although it can affect any dog, we usually see Addison’s disease in young or middle-aged female dogs. Certain breeds seem to be more at risk: Standard Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, Bearded Collies, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers and West Highland White Terriers top the list. The disease can also occur in cats, but it's relatively rate.

If your veterinarian suspects Addison’s disease, it can be confirmed with what’s called an ACTH-stimulation test. This is the administration of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) to see if the adrenal glands are then able to respond by secreting cortisol.

Other diagnostic tests that may be useful include a complete blood count (CBC) and a serum chemistry panel,including electrolyte analysis. These can help to rule out other conditions such as gastrointestinal disease or acute renal failure as well as to discover the presence of common abnormalities associated with Addison’s, such as low sodium and high potassium levels. In some cases, chest radiographs and an electrocardiogram (ECG) may be helpful in spotting the presence of other related abnormalities.


Most dogs with Addison’s disease need an initial treatment of daily oral hormone replacement for several weeks. They will need to continue some level of glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid supplementation for the rest of their lives, combined with regular follow-up exams and blood work to make sure their condition remains stable.

If your pet is being managed for Addison’s, be aware that stress from situations such as boarding, travel or surgery can cause flare-ups. Dogs may need additional glucocorticoid supplementation in those instances.

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