What is Addison's Disease?
Addison's Disease (or hypoadrenocorticism) is a disease in which the adrenal glands are destroyed, usually by the dog's own immune system, resulting in their loss of function. This means that the steroid hormones, which are normally produced by the adrenal glands, can no longer be produced.
Addison's Disease usually develops in young to middle-aged dogs (most commonly between 4-6 years of age) and is more often reported in female dogs.
Signs of Addison's Disease
The clinical signs are often vague and may be episodic; they include lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, weight loss and general weakness. Dogs may drink and urinate more. Unfortunately, these signs are not specific to Addison's disease and may also be noted in a variety of other diseases. Occasionally, dogs can experience an ‘Addisonian Crisis' and become suddenly seriously unwell.
Diagnosing Addison's Disease
Due to the unspecific nature of the clinical signs, diagnosing Addison's disease often requires several tests to be performed. A combination of physical examination, blood tests and ultrasound imaging can be used to aid a diagnosis. Then, once Addison's disease is suspected, a test called an ACTH stimulation test can be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Treating Addison's Disease
Fortunately, Addison's disease is generally relatively easy to treat. We use tablets which replace the glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids that are not being produced from the adrenal glands. Once the diagnosis is confirmed and treatment has commenced, dogs generally do very well; although life-long treatment and ongoing monitoring will be required.