Understanding the Genetic Basis of Addison’s Disease in PWDs

Addison’s disease is a common, life-threatening disorder in dogs characterized by the immune-mediated destruction of portions of the adrenal gland. This damage prevents the adrenal gland from synthesizing hormones that are necessary for normal cell metabolism, kidney function, and maintenance of the immune system. Dogs with Addison’s disease are also highly predisposed to succumbing to a life-threatening adrenal crisis. Addison’s disease is most common in Portuguese Water Dogs (PWDs), which have a 29-fold greater risk of developing the disease compared to other dog breeds, indicating a strong genetic component. To date, no genetic variants have been associated with Addison’s disease in PWDs.

This lack of knowledge has prevented the development of a genetic test that would allow for prediction of a dog’s disease risk and the development of informed breeding practices related to Addison’s disease. In this study, we will use state-of-the-art scientific tools to understand the genetic basis of Addison’s disease in PWDs. The data generated here will provide the foundation for the development of a genetic test for Addison’s disease in PWDs, enabling early diagnosis and treatment, as well as maintenance of genetic diversity within the breed while helping to decrease disease incidence.

Research funded by the Portuguese Water Dog Foundation, Inc.

For additional details including eligibility criteria and how to enroll, please visit Dr. Friedenberg’s page for the Addison’s Disease – Genetics Study in Portuguese Water Dogs Study.

Related News

Announcement: Understanding the Genetics of Addison’s Disease in PWDs
FAQs Addison’s Disease Research in PWDs

Published Research

A case-control survey study of environmental risk factors for primary hypoadrenocorticism in dogs.
Authors: Amy E. Treeful, Kelly M. Searle, Dana M. Carroll, Kathleen J. Yost, Anna L. Hedger, Steven G. Friedenberg
Published: 13 October 2023, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine


Dr. Friedenberg’s on March 28, 2023 on Addison’s disease and his investigation into the genetic component of the disease. This research made possible through your generous support of the Portuguese Water Dog Foundation.


Steven Friedenberg, DVM, PhD, University of Minnesota
Leigh Anne Clark, PhD, Clemson University
Amount: $226,000
Administrative Amount: $2,300