More than a year ago my dog was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease at the young age of three. Elle, who always had a ravenous appetite, suddenly had no interest in food. I knew immediately something wasn’t right. She then started vomiting and became very lethargic. Her bouncy bubbly Cocker Spaniel personality was gone. At that time, I had a very nice vet who was right down the street. I stayed up all night with Elle and was at the clinic doors at opening around 7am.
The doctor gave her an exam and we discussed her symptoms. He stated confidently he thought she may have Addison’s. She likely had the secondary form of hypoadrenocorticism (aka Addison’s Disease), which is a failure of the pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenals with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). In layman’s terms, she had a hormonal deficiency which was throwing her little body of of whack. This disease is often misdiagnosed and not caught right away. If the hormones are imbalanced severely, the dog can go into an Addisonian crisis and die.
After I asked what seemed like a million questions, the vet recommended an ACTH stimulation test and a full blood panel. This would confirm the diagnosis, as it would show how much or how little of the hormone Elle’s body was producing. After the stimulation test and panel, the vet was even convinced she was Addisonian. Elle’s cortisol levels were extremely low as well as her sodium, she was fasted so they knew it was her body’s regular production. The vet openly said he didn’t get a lot of these cases and the disease is very hard to spot. Still in shock over the diagnosis, I asked if he could refer me to a specialist. I wanted a second opinion and absolute certainty, he happily obliged.
After many tears, I pulled myself together and went to a specialty center to speak to an Internal Medicine expert. She reviewed Elle’s stim test and cortisol levels, she quickly confirmed the diagnosis. Thankfully, the chronic disease is able to be managed, which required daily doses of Prednisone (a steroid) and monthly IM (intramuscular) injections of Percorten-V. Both these medications allow Elle to stay balanced and far from a crisis. The moment we got her an injection she was back to her old self, the appetite returned in full force! After $3,500 in vet bills later, I was poor but happy to have my sweet girl back.
Elle sits at 27-30 pounds and requires the following doses to keep her balanced:
- 1.08ml Percorten-V injection monthly (25-30 days)
- 1/4 of a 2.5mg Prednisone tablet daily
- Blood panel w/ electrolytes every 6-12 months
Percorten-V is about $170 per 4ml vial, which includes about 3.5 doses for Elle – lasting around 3 months. Prednisone for dogs runs about $5.00 for a 30 day supply of 2.5mg tablets. Since Elle requires only a 1/4 of that daily… the prescription can stretch to about 3 plus months. The reason I am sharing costs is because there isn’t a lot of information out there on Addison’s Disease for dogs, and keeping an Addison dog in balance takes some financial planning. I was told some can’t afford the medication and the dog doesn’t make it or gets put up for adoption. Very sad!
Giving Elle her injection for the first time was nerve-wracking. I knew I would be doing this her entire life (10 years or more at that point) and I needed to suck it up and do it. The vet technicians showed me very carefully where to inject. They advised to go in her back leg where the muscle had a little fat over it to cushion the prick. Now, over a year in, I still get queasy when that time comes. I know it must hurt and is uncomfortable, but it keeps my little nugget alive.
Some resources that helped me tremendously:
- Veterinarian Dr. Charles Perkins (Maine)
- Internal Medicine Veterinary Specialist Dr. Karin Wagner (Maine)
- Website: http://www.addisondogs.com/
- Blog: http://www.endocrinevet.info/
A year later, Elle is her bubbly crazy self! Her recent blood work showed she is perfectly balanced and her doses are working. It did take some time for her to get dialed in to the right amount of Prednisone and there are a large amount of side effects, but we work through them because we love our sweet girl!