Addison’s Disease Info

This page contains resources about Addison’s Disease (Canine Hypoadrenocorticism) in canines.

I do not claim to be an expert in Addison’s nor am I a vet, but I am an owner of an Addisonian beardie who was scared when my Maggie was diagnosed over 5 years ago. I hope this page can give some information to owners of beardies of the warning signs of Addison’s Diesease. I also want to offer support to any owners of newly diagnosed beardies as I know how scary the initial shock of the diagnosis can be. Addison’s is often called the great pretender as it can look like so many other things. It can also come on very fast. With my Maggie she was at an agility trial one weekend and in the emergency vets the next. It is also called the waxing and waning disease as symptoms can come and go over a period of time making it even harder to diagnose. Some symptoms to look out for are

  • Lethargy
  • lack of appetite
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • muscle pain
  • depression

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms for any length of time, take them to the vet and have them checked out. When looking for Addison’s disease you want to look at the Na and K values and Na/K ratio. It should be between 27 and 40 (depending your vets lab norms). The K number will be high and Na will be low.

If I would have known to look at with Maggie, I think we could have caught Maggie’s Addison’s before she landed in the emergency vet. On the Saturday before Labor Day, she was at the vet’s with a ratio of 26. Even though I asked about Addison’s, the vet wasn’t worried about it, so I didn’t give it a second thought. But by Labor Day she wasn’t better, and we went to the emergency vet. Her ratio was very low and they did the ACTH test and confirmed it was Addison’s. The only way to get a definite diagnosis is by the ACTH stim test. Maggie has typical Addison’s but there is also Atypical Addison’s where the Na and K number are normal so — again — the only way to get the diagnosis would be the ACTH test. Once you get the diagnosis, the hardest part is over and the road to proper treatment and recovery can begin. Just always remember to keep open communication with your vet, and remember to stick up for your pet and their care. You have to be their advocate.

There are two treatment options for typical Addison’s Disease. For Maggie, I chose to go with the monthly injection of Percorten and daily dose of pred. There is also the option of Florinef, which is a daily pill. For me, the monthly shot was just easier. Maggie loves to go to the vet’s every month for her shot. In the beginning there are more electrolyte tests to get the proper dose of medicine, but after that is established I have Maggie’s checked every 6 months just to make sure everything is okay.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions about living with a dog with Addison’s. I know it was very helpful and comforting when Maggie was diagnosed to have others to help me though it. It is scary in the beginning, but after they are stable on their meds they can go back to doing whatever it is they love to do. Maggie was back to agility and herding within 2 moths of being diagnosed. There are also two Yahoo groups that offer support. One is K9Addisons and the other is Addisondogs.

UC Davis is doing a study on K9 Addison’s and is looking for Bearded Collie owners to send in swabs of their dogs cheeks to help find the gene marker that causes Addison’s Disease. They want both affected and non-affected dogs, so I encourage everyone to order swab kits and send them in. If you dog is diagnosed, it is important you notify their breeder and have them send in swabs for their parents and all littermates if possible. You can find out more info on this study at this link It sure would be great if we could find the marker for Addison’s so we could breed it out of our gene pool.

You can also go to for information on beardie health and to enter your dogs in the open health registry. The more beardies we have entered — both healthy and ones with health issues — the better.