Addison’s disease is a rare disorder found in both humans and animals and is caused by adrenocortical insufficiency. This means that the adrenal gland stops producing the hormones that control the metabolism of sugar and maintain the balance of salt and water in the body. This disease can be difficult to diagnose, but once diagnosed is treatable and is a manageable condition.Untreated, Addison’s disease may lead to death. Stress is thought to be a trigger for Addison’s symptoms. These symptoms may include depression, lethargy or weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and/or a lack of interest in food, which is always a telltale sign that something is wrong. If your dog is exhibiting any combination of these signs, speak to your Vet and consider an ACTH test to diagnose the problem, and don’t give steroids before the test.
The cause of Addison’s is still being researched. It may be hereditary, but the mode of inheritance is not yet known. Research is ongoing, a study for the early detection of Addison’s is underway through the PWDCA Georgie Project, begun in 2000. (see www.georgieproject.com) A new study supported by PWDCA and the CHF, at Michigan State University will try to develop and evaluate laboratory techniques for a new diagnostic tool for preclinical Addison’s disease. This could assist in both breeding programs and provide a strong basis for future molecular genetic research of Addison’s disease.