How Common is Addison’s Disease in Dogs


AAddison’s disease is an adrenal gland disorder in which the body cannot produce enough cortisol and sometimes aldosterone, two of the most important hormones the body makes. The disease affects humans as well as dogs and cats. It is considered uncommon in dogs and rare in cats.

The following are a few symptoms that may be associated with Addison’s Disease in dogs:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite & weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vomiting & diarrhea
  • Bloody stools
  • Weakened pulse
  • Increased thirst & urination
  • Shaking
dog sitting

How Common is Addison’s Disease in Dogs?

Fortunately, Addison’s disease is relatively uncommon in dogs. When it does occur, it is most prevalent in female dogs ranging from young to middle-aged, although it can affect any age, breed, or gender of dog. Certain breeds may be more prone to developing the disorder such as Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Bearded Collies, Standard Poodles, and Portuguese Water Dogs.

How is Addison’s Disease Diagnosed in a Dog?

The ACTH Stimulation Test is the gold standard for diagnosing Addison’s disease in dogs. It allows your veterinarian to assess the functioning of the adrenal gland’s response to stress in your dog. Your vet will administer an injection of synthetic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), measuring the levels of cortisol in the blood before and after the injection.

Since the symptoms of Addison’s Disease are often non-specific, such as vomiting and diarrhea, it is a somewhat complex disorder to recognize and diagnose. Urination is another symptom of Addison’s, although frequent indoor urination can be the result of many different unrelated issues. If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it could be the result of a number of issues unrelated to Addison’s.

If an adrenal gland issue is suspected, veterinarians will often test for an increased concentration of potassium in the blood and a decrease in sodium. While these symptoms may suggest Addison’s Disease, they are not a comprehensive diagnosis. Ultimately, the ACTH Stimulation Test and further imaging tests are required for a diagnosis.

dog laying on ground

What Causes Addison’s Disease in Dogs?

The cause of Addison’s disease in dogs is most often an autoimmune response that leads to damage of the adrenal glands. Although the cause of this response is not well understood, it is most likely that the immune system wrongly interprets normal body parts as foreign.

In the case of Addison’s, this would cause the dog’s immune system to attack the adrenal glands and inhibit the essential production of the hormone cortisol and occasionally aldesterone.

Another cause of Addison’s disease in dogs, although less common, is cancer or infection that invades and damages the adrenal glands, again inhibiting essential hormone production and increasing the risk of death if not diagnosed and treated.

Can Addison’s Disease be Cured?

Unfortunately, Addison’s disease cannot be cured. However, once diagnosed it is most definitely treatable.

If your dog is diagnosed with Addison’s disease, they will need to undergo long-term treatment such as Glucocorticoid Replacement Therapy and take Mineralocortoid medications. Your veterinary team will inform you how they choose to proceed with treating your pet.

Most often, treatment of Addison’s disease in dogs involves the hormone replacement therapy mentioned, as well as any other medications or therapies prescribed by your vet. Your dog will require hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their life in order to live with the disease. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most dogs will go on to live normal and happy lives.

Although Addison’s disease generally cannot be prevented in dogs, it’s important to recognize the common symptoms so that you can take your dog in for a check-up if they are demonstrating them.

Routine vet visits are essential for the health and well-being of your dog, so make sure your dog is set-up with consistent veterinary care. Adopted a quarantine puppy? Check out this article on getting quarantine puppies up to speed with socialization.

To learn more, please visit the and

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published