Causes of Canine Addison’s Disease

Canine Addison’s disease causes aren’t exactly known but there are several suspects, including a faulty immune system, vaccinations, and tumors:

  • Faulty Immune System. Many practitioners believe that most cases of primary canine Addison’s Disease are because of the immune system attacking the adrenal glands and destroying it. The reasons for why the immune system attacks the tissue are mostly unknown. However, the inherited immune disorder granulomatous disease can be a cause of Addisons.
  • Genetics: According to this research article, Addison’s occurs between 1.5% and 9% of domestic dogs, depending on breed. Some breeds, like Bearded collies and Standard poodles, have a high susceptibility to canine Addison’s (you can find a full list in this article of breeds more likely to have Addison’s). The Canine Genetic Analysis Project (CGAP) at the University of California found that out of 1470 Bearded Collies tested in the program (as of 2005), 92 had Addison’s disease, suggesting a high heritability and the possibility of a single recessive gene responsible for Addison’s disease. The team is still gathering data (as of 2009) for many breeds.

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  • Cancer: Cancer of the pituitary gland, adrenal lymphoma, or cancer that has spread to the adrenal glands from somewhere else (i.e. the lung or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) can cause Addison’s disease.
  • Drugs: Addison’s disease can occur because of drugs that block corticosteroid (one of the adrenal hormones) synthesis in the body. One such drug is Ketoconazole–used in dogs and cats to treat fungal infections. An overdose of mitotane (a drug used to treat cancer of the adrenal glands) can also cause Addison’s disease.
  • Inflammation/trauma: any kind of damage to the adrenal gland can cause Addison’s disease. It could be from something as simple as an infection or something as major as a car accident.

Secondary Addison’s disease

is caused by pituitary gland problems, and like primary Addison’s can be caused by many different factors including inflammation, trauma and tumors.

11 thoughts on “Causes of Canine Addison’s Disease

  1. claudia landenberger

    I have a small dog diagnosed with Addisons disease, she is on Florinef and prednisone. I am wondering why she shakes at times especially in the morning, if there is something I need to do differently. Otherwise she seems to be doing ok with medication, and her lab values have all come down to normal.

    1. admin

      Claudia, shaking is one sign she may not be getting enough (or the right) meds. Our dog shakes when she gets stressed–and we give her extra prednisone to stop the shaking. Pred is similar to Florinef so she could need extra Florinef, but I’d definitely have her blood work checked. Good luck :) Stephanie

  2. Mimi

    We are looking at Addison’s disease in my 5 year old terrier. She was bitten by a rattle snake two years ago and then treated with antivenin. Makes me wonder if these could have caused the onset. Testing and results should be doen soon.

  3. saandy

    My 1 year half female standard poodle has signs of addisons my vet wants to begin treatment. She ate and vomited about two pounds of choclate a week before her symptoms arouse, could that have triggered her addisons??

  4. Dee

    Would a flea treatment cause addition disease? Do dogs typically run a fever when they are having a Addison crisis?

    1. kenrosellc


      If your dog has Addison’s there’s a small change that a flea treatment could spark an Addisonian crisis, if your dog has a reaction to the meds (stress on the body can lead to a crisis). However, it won’t “cause” Addison’s itself (it could act as a trigger though).

      Dogs typically have a low temp, not a high one.


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