Hypoadrenocorticism, or Addison’s disease in dogs, is a disorder or the endocrine system where a dog’s adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol to support normal bodily functions like heart rate and electrolyte balance. Although Addison’s disease was first discovered in 1849 by Thomas Addison, the first case of Addison’s disease in dogs wasn’t discovered until a hundred years later, in 1953.
Addison’s disease in dogs is known in the medical field as hypoadrenocorticism: “Hypo” is a prefix that means “under”, “adreno” refers to the adrenal glands and “corticism” refers to cortisone — a steroid released by the adrenal glands. In other words, hypoadrenocorticism means that your dog isn’t producing enough hormones (glucocorticoids, mineralcorticoids and androgens) to keep bodily functions working normally. The condition is also known as adrenal insufficiency and adrenocorticol hypofunction.
History of the Disease
1849: Dr Thomas Addison first described Addison’s disease in humans.
1856-1858: Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard and Claude Bernard Experiments on animals showed that the removal of the adrenal glands resulted in death. Death would not happen if only one adrenal was removed, and a blood transfusion kept animals alive for some time, suggesting to the scientists that the adrenals secreted hormones necessary for life.
1953: Addison’s disease in dogs first reported in the literature.
1970s: Articles on Addison’s disease in dogs began to appear in veterinary journals.
1980s: Cases of Addison’s disease in cats were reported in the veterinary journals.
What this means to You, as an Owner of an Addison’s Dog
As you can see, although Addison’s disease has been recognized for over 150 years, canine Addison’s disease is a relatively new disease to the field of medicine. Therefore, research is still being conducted into the causes and proper treatment options for the disorder. This information means that you, as a pet owner, need to work with your veterinarian to find the best treatment plan for your pet. There’s no “one-medicine-fits-all” approach, and new information about diagnosis and treatment is being discovered almost every year. Keep up to date with your treatment options, and if your dog is still having symptoms after being treated, discuss those symptoms with you veterinarian so that your dog’s treatment plan can be adjusted.