Preclinical Detection of Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s Disease) in Dogs

Development and Evaluation of Laboratory Techniques for the Diagnosis of Immune-Mediated Canine Adrenal Disease

Addison’s disease in the dog has been well studied. It is very similar to the disease in humans. Signs include anorexia, vomiting, weakness, pain, diarrhea, lethargy, the inability to handle stress, and, in severe cases, cardiac arrest. Since there is no early diagnostic test available and clinical signs are nonspecific, more than one-third of affected dogs are presented in a life-threatening condition. Of these dogs, many are misdiagnosed and consequently die.


The results of this study provide the basis for the development of a commercially available diagnostic test that can be used prior to onset of life-threatening clinical signs. Such a test, which measures antibodies against adrenal tissue, is already available in human medicine. The researchers developed a test that is able to detect antibodies in some dogs that already have the disease and in dogs that are believed to be at higher risk (based on pedigree analysis). Completely healthy dogs tested negative, as expected. The test developed is very difficult to produce and cannot be offered commercially yet. They continue working on this project to solve these issues. If successful, the health and welfare of dogs with adrenal dysfunction should be improved by early diagnosis and by more fully understanding the disease.

Co-sponsored with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, Grant Number: 0002273


Marcus Rick, VetMed
Michigan State University