Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Not the Only One With Chronic Illness #NHBPM

This weekend I learned that I am not the only one with chronic illness in my household.  Our little brown terrier mix Theodor was just diagnosed with Addison's disease.

Theodor's Story

We adopted Theodor 4 years ago.  Brunswick met him at doggy day care and really took a liking to him.  Since Brunswick doesn't like other dogs all that much and Theodor just happened to be a rescue dog that was up for adoption, we took advantage of this serendipity and brought Theodor home for a trial sleepover.  It worked out so well he never left.

A Sick Puppy

A week ago Theodor started vomiting, shaking and became listless.  I took him off food for 24 hours and then tried feeding him small amounts of bland foods, but he kept vomiting.  The last straw was when he couldn't even keep water down, which sent to the emergency vet on the evening of Wednesday, November 14th.

A Trip to the ER

At first the vet thought it might be one of several things: intestinal blockage, gastritis, pancreatitis or liver problems.  So we started with x-rays which didn't really show any problems but reveal an incidental finding that he had a small liver.  The vet became really concerned that something was wrong with his liver and got me all worried too.  So I was convinced Theo needed to have blood work done as well.

In the end, he got some IV fluids and injectable medications  and we were sent home with 3 different pills to give him once or twice a day for the next several days.

I made multiple calls that next day trying to get his lab results.  I eventually got a call from our regular vet with the results, which showed he had an electrolyte imbalance.  Everyone was still working on the theory that he ate something that upset his tummy, code name "dietary indiscretion," and the meds we were given would help him start feeling better.

Not Getting Better

Thursday he ate what I gave him, but by Friday he started refusing to eat.  So I made some homemade doggie baby food, a blend of chicken and rice, and started hand-feeding him.  By Saturday evening his appetite hadn't improved, so I called and left a message with our regular vet asking for an appointment the next day.  Then I called the emergency vet and asked for guidance.  They said to tempt him with people food to get him started eating again, so we went to the grocery store to get some nitrite-free hot dogs and turkey lunch meat, string cheese, cottage cheese and liverwurst.

Getting the Right Diagnosis

He ate a little of all the yummy people food I tempted him with, but not enough to keep me from being worried.  So I was grateful when our regular vet called early Sunday morning and got us in a few hours later.  She reviewed the blood work the emergency vet ran again and the electrolyte numbers bothered her.  She wanted to do additional blood tests to rule out pancreatitis and Addison's disease.

He had to stay at the vet for a few hours to do the test for Addison's, which gave me time to go home and Google Addison's disease in dogs.  I learned it was a hormone deficiency affecting the adrenal glands and that some terrier breeds are genetically predisposed to getting it.  I read about the test he was getting and the treatments, which included the drug Florinef which I happen to be currently taking.

I was comforted to know that once Addison's is diagnosed, pets have an excellent prognosis as long as they receive their medications on a regular basis.

He left the vet Sunday having received a shot of a medication we were told would perk him up if he did have Addison's.  Sure enough, I could see that he was starting to feel better that evening as he was interested in food again.

Ongoing Veterinary Care

Monday I waited patiently for the vet to call with his blood results, which confirmed the diagnosis of Addison's.  He needed to go back to the vet that afternoon for a shot of desoxycorticosterone pivalate (DOCP, brand name Percorten-V).  A prescription for prednisone was called in for him to a specialty compounding pharmacy as well.

Fortunately for all of us, the shot he now needs every 25 day is reasonably priced: $33.  The prednisone, which will last for 60 days, is $35.  These are expenses we're willing make some sacrifices to afford.  After all, Theo is our furry child and these medications make such a huge and visible difference in his state of well-being.

Today Theo is back to his regular self.  He is barking at the mailman and jumping up on the couch so he can snuggle with Mom or Dad with no problems.  He gulped down his dinner in typical doggie fashion and ran down the street with Dad during our evening walk.  He doesn't mind his new medication, which is chicken flavored.

He also has a new godmother, Mo, a blogging friend of mine who also has Addison's disease.  Yes, humans get this too; someone mentioned to me that President John F. Kennedy had it.  I encourage you to visit Day by Day With the Addison Girl to learn more about how this disease affects humans.

Final Thoughts

After this week-long ordeal, I am glad that:

  • we know what is wrong with Theodor
  • his condition is treatable
  • we can afford the treatments
  • his prognosis is excellent

Given the alternative, I am content to be the one in our family with the chronic illnesses that aren't so easily recognized, understood or treated.

It was stressful going through the diagnostic process over this past week with my pup. I know it is easier for me to be sick than for me to watch someone else I love be sick.

I'm amazed how many illnesses both humans and animals have in common.

Isn't it interesting how my experiences in the medical and veterinary systems of care parallel each other? You know, weird symptoms, trips to the ER, misdiagnoses, not getting better, needing to see another doctor/vet, etc., etc., etc.

I find it ironic that the emergency vet clinic, which actually sees a high volume of pets with Addison's and has an Addison's expert on staff, wasn't able to properly diagnose Theodor.

I wonder...do chronic ill people pick out chronically ill pets because they are in tune with such things?

You live with chronic illness.  Is someone else in your home living with chronic illness too?  Share your story in a comment below.

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FibroFacialGal said...

I also had a chronically ill dog. I could relate to him well because I have so many funky things gong on with my body, so paid close attention to him and caught all of his weird stuff right away. He lived a very happy and fulfilling life for all of his 13 years- far longer than he would have if he were with someone who couldn't understand that for some creatures, having stuff upon stuff is just their "normal", and that is just gonna have to be OK.

When I took this dog into my life, I made a lifelong commitment to him, to meet him whe he was at. No waffling or complaining about the vet bills, pills, or extra care- he was mine to care for no matter what.

My husband would often comment tht he was a doggie version of me. Yep, he sure was. The universe somehow knew that this dog needed this person. So amazing.

Anonymous said...

Selena, I have a different form of adrenal insuffiency than Theo. Mine is secondary due to hypo-pituitary. The pituitary gland makes ACTH which tells the adrenals to work and produce cortisol. Without ACTH the adrenals just sit there and do nothing. (Kinda like me!) Hereis a link to my blog post about my diagnosis. I hope this link works!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Selena.

Iris Carden said...

My poor old dog has arthritis - not the same as my lupus, but we have one drug in common (very different doses, though) and we both sit and complain about our aches and pains together.