Addison's Disease in Dogs

Addison's disease in dogs is also known as hypoadrenocorticism. It is a disease that occurs when the adrenal gland stops producing sufficient amounts of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. Addison's disease is usually not fatal, except in cases where the condition has been allowed to progress for far too long without treatment.

Functions of the Adrenal Gland

The adrenal gland is responsible for producing two hormones: cortisol and aldosterone. Corisol is a corticosteroid which helps your dog to cope with stress, helps him to have energy and helps him to maintain a healthy structure of the immune system. Aldosterone is responsible for monitoring blood pressure and keeping it at an acceptable level, as well to ensure that the kidneys are functioning properly.

Causes of Dog Adrenal Disease

The most common cause of Addison's disease is due to an autoimmune disorder; in which the body mistakenly begins attacking its own cells and tissues. When the immune system responds in this way, it can cause the adrenal gland to stop producing, or not produce enough, of its two vital hormones.

In addition, a severe infection somewhere in the body can also cause the adrenal gland to be effected. When an infection occurs in your dog, and has been allowed to spread over time without treatment, many organs and structures of the body lay susceptible to it. Addison's disease can sometimes be the direct result of a serious infection.

Other times, the adrenal gland can stop working when there are insufficient amounts of the ACTH hormone by the pituitary gland. This hormone released by the pituitary gland is only responsible for stimulating the adrenal gland to work properly and effectively. When there is a decrease in the ACTH hormone, or a complete depletion, the adrenal gland can stop working altogether.


Although it cannot necessarily be determined why, it is known that Addison's disease tends to affect more female dogs than male dogs. There is currently debate over whether certain breeds are predisposed to developing this condition. However, breed predilection does not appear to currently be a factor.

Symptoms of Addison's Disease

In most cases, the adrenal gland stops functioning over a period of time. That means that symptoms in your dog may not initially be noticeable. Even in cases where the pituitary gland stops the production of ACTH, the adrenal gland can still continue to function for a short period of time.

Here are some of the symptoms to watch for:

  • General fatigue or sleeping more than usual
  • Excessive loss of weight
  • Not being able to cope normally during stressful situations

Canine Addison's Disease Diagnosis

Addison's disease is fairly simple to diagnose. A blood test will be used to check the level of the hormone ACTH produced by the pituitary gland. However, it is important to remember that the symptoms of Addison's disease are generally indicative of a variety of other diseases and Addison's disease may not initially be suspected.

Treatment of Addison's Disease

Treatment of Addison's disease is very simple; which is why this disease is not usually fatal. A hormone replacement medication of the cortisol or aldosterone hormone will be given. Basically, because the adrenal gland is no longer producing these hormones on its own, or is not producing sufficient amounts of the, a hormone replacement medication can fill the void.