First epidemiological study published on hypoadrenocorticism in dogs under primary-care practice in the UK

19 May 2021

The first ever epidemiological study on hypoadrenocorticism in dogs within the UK primary-care population has been published and appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Small Animal Practice (JSAP).

The study “Hypoadrenocorticism in dogs under UK primary veterinary care: frequency, clinical approaches and risk factors”, identified dogs diagnosed with hypoadrenocorticism from the electronic patient records of practices participating in the UK VetCompass™ programme during 2016. The study aimed to estimate the frequency of hypoadrenocorticism in dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK, describe the diagnosis and clinical management of hypoadrenocorticism and to report the risk factors for the disease. Cases were categorised as having a laboratory-confirmed or presumed diagnosis, based on the information available in the electronic patient records. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify demographic risk factors.

A total of 177 hypoadrenocorticism cases were identified from 905,543 dogs in 2016; 72 laboratory-confirmed and 105 presumed. The one-year period prevalence for hypoadrenocorticism in all dogs was 0.06%.

The most commonly recorded clinical signs included lethargy (77.3%), anorexia (72.7%), vomiting (72.7%), diarrhoea (45.5%), weakness (37.9%) and weight loss (28.8%). Furthermore, hyperkalaemia was reported in 47 of 53 (88.7%) cases and hyponatraemia was reported in 46 of 53 (86.8%). Median sodium: potassium ratio was 19.00

Imogen Schofield, corresponding author for the paper, said: ““By presenting epidemiological data on dogs with hypoadrenocorticism attending primary-care practice, this study provides representative and relatable information for vets working in primary-care practice in the UK. It should be borne in mind that diagnostic and clinical management data were reported for laboratory-confirmed cases only.”.

“Breed, age, neuter status and insurance status were all associated with a laboratory-confirmed diagnosis of hypoadrenocorticism. The standard poodle had 51.38 times the odds of hypoadrenocorticism compared with crossbreeds. The labradoodle (OR: 7.40) and West Highland white terrier (OR: 5.84) also had increased odds.

Nicola Di Girolamo, Editor of JSAP, concluded: “This is the largest study to date to provide benchmark data on hypoadrenocorticism in dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK. Given that the frequency of hypoadrenocorticism has rarely been reported, it is typically difficult to diagnose due to the non-specific clinical signs associated with the disease, and many previous studies have focussed on referral populations. This is a welcome publication adding to the evidence base of an important topic.”

The full article can be found in the May issue of the Journal of Small Animal Practice and can be read online here. It is open access and can be freely accessed by anyone.

1I. Schofield, V. Woolhead, A. Johnson, D.C. Brodbelt, D.B. Church and D.G. O’Neill (2021) Hypoadrenocorticism in dogs under UK primary veterinary care: frequency, clinical approaches and risk factors. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 62 (5). Available at: