Addison’s disease is a disorder of the adrenal glands in which adrenal hormone production is insufficient. The condition may result from damage to the glands by infection, cancer or drugs, or the cause may not be known. Pituitary gland disease may also cause adrenal insufficiency.

Insufficient adrenal hormones can upset the body’s conservation of sodium (salt), reduce circulating blood volume, impair heart and kidney function, damage the heart muscle, and cause faulty sugar and fat metabolism.  Decreased tolerance of stress is the primary characteristic of Addison’s disease.

Important Points in Treatment

Initial treatment of adrenal insufficiency is usually done in the hospital, due to the need for intravenous fluids and medication and frequent laboratory tests.  Your pet will be released as soon as the disorder can be treated effectively at home.  Lifetime treatment is usually needed.

Activity should be reduced during the initial recovery due to the pet’s inability to react properly to stress.  Once the condition stabilizes, activity can be gradually increased to normal.

Medication should be given as directed and the pet should always have access to fresh water.  Dietary changes are not usually required, but occasionally some pets require salt supplementation.

Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:

  • Your pet vomits or has diarrhea
  • Your pet seems overly thirsty and urinates frequently or has “accidents”
  • Your pet has periods of well-being interrupted by brief episodes of illness, weakness or depression
  • Your pet is depressed