Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s)

Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s)


This disorder affects the adrenal glands resulting in lowered production of hormones important to metabolic function.  There is more than one known form, with the most common diagnosis as either Primary, due to autoimmune disease
or Secondary related to the pituitary.  There is also evidence that there could be environmental triggers affecting onset and severity of symptoms.

Prolonged or repeated vomiting and diarrhea may indicate an Addison’s Crisis and is an emergency situation. This disorder can be fatal if untreated. 

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Symptoms: anorexia, vomiting, weight loss or inability to maintain good weight, weakness, pain, diarrhea, lethargy, the inability to handle stress.

Treatment Options:  Immediate supportive care and prescribed medication are necessary in the case of a crisis.  Maintenance care will require hormone supplements and regulation of glucocorticoids for the rest of the dog’s life with regular evaluations to ensure correct dosages.  This should only be done under veterinary supervision.

Known Mode of Inheritance: Unknown in cardigans.  Thought to be polygenic, possibly with environmental influence, in other breeds.

Age of onset: average 2-6 years, but has been known to occur much earlier or later in life in cardigans.

Breeds affected

  • Cardigan: yes
  • Pembroke: yes
  • Other Breeds: yes, many breeds and mixed breeds.

Incidence in Cardigans: Unknown.


  • Cardigans: no
  • Other breeds: yes, there is ongoing research through CGAP at UC Davis for specific breeds, but it is not officially open to cardigans at this time.

    The NHGRI (National Humen Genetic Research Institute) is currently conducting a Dog Genome Project to identify markers for genetic diseases in dogs, including Addison’s.
    Blood samples are needed and they will supply the necessary collection materials.
    Contact information:

    Erica Chapman
    50 South Drive, Bldg 50, Room 5347
    Bethesda, MD 20892-8000

Registry: no

Tests Available: An ACTH stimulation test can be used for diagnosis when symptoms are present, but may be inconclusive in non-symptomatic individuals. Recent breakthroughs in genetic research have been reported, so DNA testing may soon be available for some breeds.

Research links:

Published papers and Articles:

Discussion Groups:


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