This article is from the Canine Medical Information FAQ, by Cindy Tittle Moore with numerous contributions by others.
Addison's Disease (hypoadrenocorticsm or adrenocortical insufficiency)
is an uncommon but potentially fatal disorder in which the adrenal
glands do not secrete enought gluco- and mineralo-corticoids. Without
these hormones, death will occur. The symptoms are vague and
non-specific, so it's easy for the disease to become life-threatening
before it is diagnosed.
Symptoms include depression, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea,
dehydration, weight loss and shivering. A veterinarian may find
decreased mental ability, a slow heart rate, poor pulse quality, and
low body temperature. Blood tests may reveal increased kidney indices
and electrolyte imbalances of low sodium and chlorine and high
potassium. A simple test called ACTH stimulation confirms the disease.
Treatment traditionally involves replacing mineralocorticoids with
fludrocortisone acetate (Florenef Acetate); glucocorticoids may also
be replaced depending on the dog's condition. Dogs tend to be
resistant to the desired effects of Florenef, thus high doses are
required and side effects include increased thirst, urination, and
urinary incontinence in some cases. An experimental drug that may soon
be approved for use in animals is desoxycorticosterone pivalete (DOCP,
available through Ciba Animal Health) injected subcutaneously.
Preliminary studies are encouraging, and details may be found in JAAHA