Canine Addison's Disease

(also known as Hypoadrenocorticism)

Addison's Disease, or Hypoadrenocorticism, is a rare but serious disorder where the adrenal glands secrete an insufficient amount of adrenal hormones. This is an extremely serious disease as these hormones are essential for a wide variety of functions.

Primary adrenocorticism affects glucorticoid and salt/potassium balance. It is not known why it occurs but is believed to be an inherited disorder.

Secondary adrenocorticism usually only affects the glucocorticoids, and is believed to occur most often when prednisone or other cortisone being administered for medical reasons are suddenly withdrawn. It may also occur as a result of pituitary cancer or other processes that interfere with production of the hormones that stimulate the adrenal glands.

Initial symptoms include gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting, lethargy and poor appetite. When an affected dog is stressed or when potassium levels are high enough to interfere with the heart, more severe symptoms may be seen including severe shock which can be fatal, heart arrythmias can occur, or the heart could even stop. In some cases, especially secondary, no changes in electrolyte balance can be detected.

Some breeds appear to be more susceptible to the disease than others and these include: the Great Dane, the Labrador Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Portuguese Water Dog, Rottweiler, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Standard Poodle, and the West Highland White Terrier. In addition, studies have found that 70 to 85% of dogs with Canine Addison's Disease are female and that affected dogs are most often aged between 4 and 7 years.

Additional Information:
  • AddisonDogs.com — This web site was developed by a group of individuals who have dogs with Addison's Disease. They look to improve wellness for the whole dog including body, mind and spirit through a variety of means such as conventional medications, alternative therapies, diet and exercise. Their goal is to foster open communication about the variety of options available to the caregiver of a dog with Addison's Disease.
  • What is Addison's Disease? — Also from AddisonDogs.com. Includes a detailed description of the disorder.
  • Canine Inherited Disorders Database — Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's Disease)


Note: This section of Canada's Guide to Dogs is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.