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Addison's disease.

Species: Dog
Breed: golden retriever
Age: 11-15 years
I had almost the same experience as the person who wrote you about losing their dog to Myasthenia Gravis. My dog had just turned eleven when he passed. He was always a very healthy dog with no physical problems until last spring when I started seeing symptoms like tiring quickly after walking thirty or forty feet, balance problems, a slight cough and change in his voice. All vets I took him to said old age, arthritis, allergies (he never had allergies). Had full xrays done to eliminate any cancer or heart problems but they found nothing. Finally called a vet I used to use but no longer live anywhere near suggested testing for MG. Test sent to Shelton's lab but came back negative but he was on a low dose of Thyroid med and also of Prednisone at the time and 20% dogs test negative even though they have MG. Vet then DID ACHT test for Addison's and came back positive. He gave Dakota a shot of Percortin V on a Saturday. By Wednesday he was full of energy and I thought I had my boy back. By Friday the signs of weakness, imbalance and tiring came back. I told the vet but he seemed unconcerned. Saturday he threw up and I called but the vet said probably an upset stomach from the meds. Sunday morning he was not doing well and I rushed him to the vet -- he had spiked a 107 fever. We lost him within hours -- was told his system crashed. Not looking to blame anyone -- just seems like everyone missed the signs until it had progressed for six or seven months. Problem is that I am left wondering what the heck happened. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh goodness, I'm so sorry to hear about Dakota. It sounds like this was a really complicated case.

Most likely the test that you had done for Addison's was something called an ACTH stimulation test. This test is quite accurate and so it does sound like Addison's was the likely diagnosis. As you likely know, Addison's is a very nasty disease. It is caused by a problem with the adrenal glands not producing enough hormone.

It is often difficult to diagnose Addison's disease. It is something that I think is often missed. Many dogs will have a very obvious decrease in their ratio of sodium and potassium in the blood, but some will have what is called "atypical addison's" where the Na/K ratio is normal.

Unfortunately dogs with Addison's disease can have what is called an Addisonian crisis where the adrenal glands simply shut down. It sounds like this is likely what happened with poor Dakota.

While most dogs with Addison's do really well with Percortin, not all do. Some dogs will also need to be on prednisone at the same time.

It's also possible that there was something else going on at the same time.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Addison's is an extremely difficult condition to deal with and can quite often end in a serious way like this.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Yes, it was the atypical Addison's that he had and the test was the ACTH. I thought with the positive response to the percortin v that we were on the right track so it was whiplash to lose him a few days later. Also the symptoms he had were all of the ones listed for MG -- that's what has me confused because he had none of the symptoms listed for Addison's. I've also read in my research about PAS II and Schmidts so I know it could have been a combination of things. I guess my question to you was if there was any way to have known he was going into an Addisonian crises so soon after getting the shot of Percortin.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Addison's is such a tricky disease that the symptoms are not always obvious. Plus, the symptoms can easily mimic other diseases.

One of the other frustrating things is that you just never know when a crisis is about to happen. It sounds like the Percorten certainly did help him, but it's possible that the dosage wasn't enough. It's also possible that there was "something else" going on in the body that made treating the Addison's that much harder.

Unfortunately we will never know what happened.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.