The end of an era or the start of a new chapter?

I wanted to write a quick blog about what has taken over our lives recently, we’ve been in and out of the vets now for nearly a month and it’s been hard to keep a sense of ‘normality’ while this has been going on.

It started the week after Crufts with our dog Donnie being sick and showing signs of a virus in the middle of the night. An emergency trip to our local vet and we seemed to get a grip on it, he improved a bit and we were sent home with some medication.

Then after another couple of days, when I still wasn’t happy with how he looked, he went  in again dehydrated and lethargic, so had to spend a night away from us on a drip. For most dog owners this would be stressful but for us, when Donnie tends to share the bed every night, it was awful.

Donnie wasn't even feeling well enough to play most of the time

Donnie wasn’t even feeling well enough to play most of the time

Donnie came home and things seemed to improve again, we even got to the stage where we began to take him out and get his routine back but after another two weeks and his progress was minimal, we went back for more tests.

I have to say at this point we hadn’t just been ignoring the problem, he’d had blood and urine tests every few days and he had been closely monitored, but nothing had changed dramatically and the levels being tested were all within the average boundaries. However, on this occasion a decline in his health was noted and he was actually being sick again.

Donnie was referred to a veterinary hospital nearby and they (along with our local vets) suggested a ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) stimulation test to check for Addison’s Disease. To put it very simply Addison’s Disease is the common name for hypoadrenocorticism, or adrenal insufficiency and the adrenal glands situated on the kidneys do not produce the vital hormones necessary for normal kidney function. Symptoms are both vague and common in other ailments, making it extremely hard to diagnose.  The symptoms also ‘wax and wane’ which makes it appear resolved, when in fact the damage being done to the kidneys internally is continuing.

The test result came back positive and unequivocal – Donnie was suffering because he has developed Addison’s Disease. This is all still very new to us and we’ve been frantically researching the internet since the diagnosis. A website of particular use has been an American site (http://www.addisondogs.com) which has some fantastic information on the disease and answers a lot of questions.

Things to indicate Addison's Disease in dogs - Table courtesy of www.vetgrad.com

Things to indicate Addison’s Disease in dogs – Table courtesy of http://www.vetgrad.com

Looking at all the information available, it would appear that there is every chance Donnie can live a ‘normal’ life once we have found the right balance of medication, which can take up to six months. However, the majority of the cases the vets have seen are in dogs who lead ‘typical’ lives, not extremely active ones and certainly not lives where they are racing every other weekend for six or seven months of the year.

Addison’s Disease symptoms can be triggered by any ‘stress’ be that physical or mental, so we’ve been told to keep him calm and to (at least at this stage) avoid anything which will increase his heart rate by too much. Any additional strain on his system could cause Donnie to display the main symptoms of: Vomiting, Diarrhea, Lethargy, Lack of appetite, Tremors or shaking, Muscle weakness, Pain in hind quarters.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the illness itself but try to find a way for us now to move forward with the medication he has and hopefully get him back to some sort of ordinary routine. If this means he can no longer bikejor and canicross race then so be it, we will have to deal with each day as it comes and just prepare for providing him an active lifestyle suitable for keeping him happy with the condition he has.

Donnie may well not be able to race in the bikejor again, we'll just have to wait and see… Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

Donnie may well not be able to race in the bikejor again, we’ll just have to wait and see… Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

So is this the end of an era for Donnie? I hope not, I’d like to think of this as the start of a new chapter in both his life and ours, where we might have to compromise and substitute some of his previous activity for something a bit more sedate. But if I know Donnie, whatever we end up doing, it will be done with 100% commitment and effort, regardless of any limitations we might now face.

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3 comments on “The end of an era or the start of a new chapter?

  1. Bronwyn says:

    So sorry to hear about beautiful Donnie. Thinking of you guys, and will let you know if I find out any more about the condition. Bronwyn

  2. Sorry to hear your news. My now 8 year old Beardie Oscar was diagnosed with Addisons in November. I have found http://cimda.co.uk/ and their forum to be hugely helpful, can’t recommend them enough. Before getting the diagnosis was the most dangerous time, Oscar was close to death on that day. Oscar was quick to stabilise when we knew what was wrong and on his drug regime he was soon back to his old self.
    The introduction of a new pup this last week and the bugs she brought in gave us our first wobble, but things are stable again now. But we do try to reduce his stress or manage his drugs to predict good and bad stress.
    It is a complex illness but quality and quantity of life can be unaffected with good management.
    Autoimmune problems are becoming more common in Beardies so we were kind of expecting something.
    He’s living life to the full again now, we’re close to maxing out our pet insurance though! But he’s certainly worth it.

  3. manicivy says:

    I wish you & Donnie well. Hopefully a balance can be found and he can keep doing the things he clearly loves to do. & thank you for sharing information on this disease.

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