Addison’s disease is an endocrine disorder where the adrenal glands, located near the kidneys, fail to produce enough of certain essential hormones. This disease is relatively uncommon in dogs (approximately one case per 3000 dogs) and is very rare in cats.
The common symptoms of Addison’s disease are lethargy, occasional vomiting or diarrhea, weakness, low body temperature, low heart rate, and shaking. The symptoms can be vague, may be intermittent, and may be attributed to many other causes. If left untreated, this disease can be fatal.
Addison’s usually affects young to middle-aged dogs, but it can occur at age. About seventy percent of cases are female. Breeds likely to be affected are great Danes, Newfoundlands, Portuguese water dogs, rottweilers, German shepherds, westies, wheaten terriers, springer spaniels. The breeds with the highest rates of Addison’s disease are standard poodles, leonbergers, and Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers.
A routine blood profile may reveal changes that suggest Addison’s, and the specific test for the disease is called an ACTH stimulation test. This test involves two blood draws, one before and one an hour after an injection of a drug named Cortrosyn. Both samples are sent to the reference lab, and the results are compared. In a normal animal, a robust difference will be seen between the samples. In a pet with Addison’s, little to no difference will be seen.
Treatment options are either an oral daily drug, Florinef, or an injectable drug, Percorten, that is given every 25 days. Most veterinarians use Percorten as it provides more consistent control of the disease and removes the need for daily dosing. If your pet is diagnosed with Addison’s disease, your veterinarian will work with you to determine the best course of treatment.