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Addison's Disease PDF Print E-mail

Addison's Disease (hypoadrenocorticism) is characterized by a lack of cortisol production by the adrenal glands. It is more common in young to middle-aged female dogs. Standard poodles and Portuguese water dogs are the most commonly affected breeds.

 Clinical signs:

Symptoms may include vomiting, anorexia, weight loss, excessive drinking and urination, diarrhea, poor response to stress, poor body condition, dark or tarry stool, and anemia. It is not uncommon for symptoms to wax and wane. An acute episode can result in shock, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting, especially after stress.

On physical exam, patients may be weak, dehydrated, have elevated heart rates or even slow heart rates if their potassium levels are high.


CBC - decreased neutrophil and monocyte counts, increased lymphocyte and eosinophil counts, mild non-regenerative anemia.

Chemistry panel - high potassium, low sodium and chloride, high calcium, high phosphorous and kidney values, low blood sugar. The sodium/potassium ratio is often less than 27 (normal: 27-40)

Urinalysis - dilute urine

EKG - with high potassium - spiked T waves.

Fecal exam - check for whipworms if gastrointestinal signs.

An ACTH Stimulation test is usually the definitive test to diagnose Addison's disease.


Acute crises may require hospitalization for IV fluids, Flourinef, and dexamethasone or prednisone.

Long term treatment involves once monthly Percorten injections. Prednisone may also be used for long term treatment in some cases. This is a very expensive disease to treat.


Your vet may recommend checking routine bloodwork (CBC, electrolytes - potassium and sodium) and an ACTH stimulation test to evaluate you dog's response to treatment.