What is Addison’s Disease in dogs and how serious is it?
Addisons Disease in dogs (also known as hypoadrenocorticism) results when the Adrenal Gland – located next to the kidney – is not producing enough cortisol (a stress hormone).
Addisons disease is very serious. It can even be life threatening.
And it is very common in standard poodles. It’s the number one standard poodle health concern.
It has been ranked as the highest reported illness in the Poodle Health Registry. Pet insurance companies also rank Standard Poodles as a high-risk breed for this incurable disease.
What causes Addisons Disease in dogs?
It is not fully known what causes Addisons Disease in dogs.
It could be associated with autoimmune disease when the immune system attacks the adrenal gland. Excessive use of cortisone steroids for treating allergies can also cause Addison’s Disease in dogs.
In any case, something has interfered with the ability of the adrenal gland to produce the steroids necessary (aldosterone and cortisol) to regulate the internal organs of the body.
High Risk Breeds
Any breed of dog can develop Addison’s Disease.
The following dogs are among the breeds at highest risk for this disease:
- Standard Poodles
- Great Danes
- Portuguese Water Dogs
- West Highland Terriers
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers
- Bearded Collies
This illness affects both male and female standard poodles and has been diagnosed in puppies less than a year old. However, it is more commonly diagnosed in young to middle-aged females.
Symptoms Include (but are not limited to):
- Intolerance to stress
- Feeling cold (low body temperature)
- Shaking intermittently
- Loss of appetite
- Dehydration, diarrhea and vomiting
- Excessive thirst
- Problems with digestion and abdominal pain
- Shock symptoms
In the early stages, these symptoms may fluctuate. This disease has been branded “The Great Imitator” because the symptoms are so diverse and transient.
Treatment for Addison’s Disease in Dogs
Sudden onset of these symptoms – called an “Addisonian Crisis” – should be considered a medical emergency and you should seek medical attention immediately. Hospitalization is required.
Once diagnosed, lifelong treatment with hormone replacement medication is required, but provides an excellent prognosis for a normal lifespan.
Check out this interview with Doctor Alan Rubenstein:
For more information on the causes and treatment options, refer to the Merck Veterinary Manual.