Autumn may have celebrated her sixth birthday earlier this year, but she still acts like a puppy. Her boundless energy and boisterous attitude always make her owners smile. So when Autumn wasn’t acting her usual self, her owners took her to Arrow Dog and Cat Hospital.

Our Dr. Agarwal could tell right away that something serious was wrong with Autumn, because she couldn’t keep her balance. When she tried to walk, she would stumble and catch herself to keep from falling. When Dr. Agarwal kneeled down and held Autumn’s face in her hands, she could see that the dog’s pupils were different sizes—one was wide open, while the other was tightly constricted, a condition called anisocoria. When Dr. Agarwal looked at Autumn’s owners, she saw that they understood that Autumn’s life was in danger.

From Autumn’s signs, Dr. Agarwal suspected a problem with her brain or another part of her neurologic system, and knew that her best chance of survival was a referral to a veterinary neurologist. But, Autumn’s owners knew that a specialist’s fee would be outside their budget. So, Dr. Agarwal called the local emergency clinic, which provided the around-the-clock care that Autumn might need, but the emergency veterinarian felt that Autumn’s case was too advanced and that Autumn needed a neurologist.

That meant Dr. Agarwal was Autumn’s last chance. She suggested that blood work may help reveal Autumn’s problem. With the owners’ permission, Dr. Agarwal took Autumn’s blood, and because our clinic has the necessary equipment onsite, was able to obtain those results within an hour. The veterinarian immediately had a hunch about Autumn.

Two of Autumn’s electrolytes, her sodium and potassium, were abnormal. Her extremely low sodium could cause low blood pressure and neurologic signs, while her high potassium could cause low heart rate and other cardiac problems.

Dr. Agarwal recognized the signs of hypoadrenocorticism, or Addison’s disease. The disease shuts down the adrenal gland, which produces cortisol and aldosterone, two hormones that help the body deal with stress and that regulate the body’s electrolyte levels, respectively. Without these vital hormones, Autumn’s body had reached a crisis state.

A definitive test for Addison’s, called a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, is available, but the results would not be received for several days. In the meantime, Dr. Agarwal knew her patient needed a steroid to replace what her body couldn’t produce and intravenous (IV) fluids to correct her dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Autumn stayed in the hospital on an IV drip for several days, while Dr. Agarwal and her owner worried about her, not knowing if should would pull through. Fortunately, the test results were conclusive for Addison’s, and Autumn was immediately started on the appropriate medication. A week later, she was well enough to go home with her owners, but problems remained. 

Treatment for Addison’s is a monthly injection of Cortrosyn, a medication that would replace Autumn’s missing hormones, but, unfortunately, Autumn would need the expensive medication for the rest of her life. Autumn’s owners simply couldn’t afford the expense. However, Dr. Agarwal was able to find a less-expensive oral medication, and after some dose adjustments, Autumn slowly returned to normal, with the energy of a puppy once again. At her check-ups, she greeted Dr. Agarwal enthusiastically, showing no signs of her neurologic problems.

When they first came to our clinic, Autumn’s owners weren’t sure their precious dog would get better. But thanks to Dr. Agarwal’s compassion and tenacity, Autumn is not only home again, but also living her best life. If you met Autumn, you probably would never guess that she came close to death and is now successfully battling a lifelong disease. Autumn has so much love in her heart, she may knock you over with her high energy and smother you with kisses.

Addison’s disease in pets

Addison’s disease can affect any pet, but usually occurs in middle-aged and older dogs. Early disease signs are usually subtle, but can include gastrointestinal signs, such as diarrhea and weight loss. 

A pet diagnosed with Addison’s disease needs daily or monthly medication to replace the missing hormones. Also, because they lack the hormone that helps deal with stressful situations, pets with Addison’s need medication in advance to avoid crisis situations, such as:

  • Family or friends moving in or staying over
  • Veterinary visits
  • Nail trims
  • Holiday celebrations, such as the Fourth of July

Autumn’s owners feared they would lose their four-legged family member due to lack of funds for specialty treatment. Fortunately, Dr. Agarwal made a quick diagnosis, and she persisted until she found alternative treatment that would help Autumn while staying within her owners’ budget. Addison’s disease can be fatal, but a pet with Addison’s can live a long, happy life with proper medication. 

Dr. Agarwal and the other veterinarians at Arrow Dog and Cat Hospital are always here for you. We can perform miracles for your pet, as we did with Autumn.