Addisons Disease - Hypoadrenocorticism

What is addisons disease?

Addisons disease or hypoadrenocorticism is a disease where an animals adrenal glands don't function properly. The adrenal glands produce a lot of the bodies hormones important for normal bodily function. This disease typically occurs in young to middle aged female dogs. It can also occur in males, older dogs and rarely in cats.

What are the signs of addisons disease?

Addisons causes animals to become lethargic and weak, they will be off their food, often with vomiting and diarrhoea. They may be drinking and urinating more. On examination they typically have slow heart rates and low body temperatures. Stress will make the symptoms more severe. Symptoms can come on suddenly and are potentially fatal if not treated.

How do we diagnose addisons?

Blood tests will be required to diagnose Addisons. General health screens will often show low sodium and high potassium levels. A further more specific blood test called an ACTH stimulation test is needed to definitively diagnose the disease. These tests are able to be done in our clinics laboratory.

How is Addisons treated?

Treatment usually requires putting your pet on a drip and starting on medical therapy to replace the hormones that the adrenal gland usually produces. Once the pet is stabilised the drip can be stopped and medication continued at home on maintenance doses, usually this is lifelong. Follow up blood tests will be needed to monitor the animals, especially in the first few months.

What is the longterm outcome?

The prognosis for animals being treated for adrenal insufficency is usually good and they can lead happy normal lives. Medication is usually life long and will need on-going monitoring. Occasionally some animals may have a relapse and need to be hospitalised to restabilise them but this is uncommon.