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My dog has Addison’s Disease, is it hereditary?

Neil McIntosh
Addison?s Disease was first diagnosed in dogs in 1953, some hundred years after it was discovered in humans by Thomas Addison, a medical graduate of Edinburgh University who went on to become one of the ?great men? of Guy?s Hospital in London.

Remarkably, however, dogs are around one hundred times more likely to be affected by it than humans (though it is still rare).

It is a complicated endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands fail to produce enough hormone to keep the body functioning properly, resulting in metabolic and electrolyte disturbances.

Symptoms are often vague and varied so that early diagnosis is difficult and misdiagnosis common.

Lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, shaking, muscle weakness and poor appetite can be seen but are very non specific.

Reduction in body temperature and heart rate give more of a clue.

Diagnosis can be made on electrolyte levels (as potassium levels rise while sodium falls) and on a specific adrenal stimulation test. Addison?s Disease is fatal if left without treatment but, once diagnosed, most patients can live a normal life, albeit working would be difficult and dangerous.

The good news for you is that, although your breed is predisposed, around 70% of cases occur in females.