Abby’s Story ~ Sally Martin & Greg Richards, Victoria
Abby was a happy 4 year old Airedale girl living in Sydney. Her family were so delighted with her that they added a new Airedale puppy into their lives. Abby initially loved her new playmate but quite suddenly started to show signs of being bothered by all the puppy attention. Her grumpiness changed to avoidance then to lethargy and finally to total collapse. As she was being rushed to the Emergency Vet her family feared they were going to lose her.
Abby struggled to hold on to life over the 4 days of testing as the vets searched for the cause of her illness. Finally, a diagnosis of Addison’s Disease was made.
Addison’s disease is uncommon and often under-diagnosed. Signs that a dog may have Addison’s are many and varied and this gives Addison’s Disease the nicknames of “the Great Pretender” or “the Great Imitator”. Addison’s Disease, whether in dogs or humans, is an endocrine system disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands fail to produce enough hormones for normal life function. The adrenal glands – located above the kidneys – secrete both glucocorticoids (such as cortisol) and mineralocorticoids (such as aldosterone).
Cortisol – called “the stress hormone,” regulates or modulates many of the changes that occur in the body in response to stress
Aldosterone – regulates sodium and potassium levels in the body. These levels affect the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure.
Addison’s Disease is genetic, often related to autoimmune disorders where the body attacks and kills its own tissue – “immune mediated destruction”. (On rare occasions it can be caused by adrenal gland tumours.)
Addison’s disease is also known as Hypoadrenocorticism and is always fatal if left untreated!
Addison’s Disease is quite correctable with medications and dogs with Addison’s have the potential to live a long and happy life. How long a life depends entirely on how well their Addison’s Disease is managed. An Addison’s dog depends on its owner to protect it from stress and to tailor its medication dose and frequency to its daily needs. That is not something a veterinarian can do on a day-to-day basis. Every dog will be different. But after a period of time on its medications, and after enough blood electrolyte tests have been run to see how these medications are affecting it, owners will be able to make the fine medication adjustments the pet needs to return to its favourite activities and enjoyments.
Abby survived her Addisonian crisis thanks to the Emergency Veterinary Hospital’s diagnosis but a crisis is a traumatic event for both dog and owners. Abby’s regular vet took over her medical care and recommended that her family circumstances were not conducive for her continued health. Abby struggled with the heat and humidity in Sydney and also with the high activity/stress levels of the new pup and the family’s two young children. Both her owners worked full time and they felt they were not able to monitor her closely enough to ensure she did not go into crisis again.
When Abby’s breeder was not able to help, her owners contacted AireNet and the search for her new home began. The ‘perfect new home’ needed to be somewhere cooler, quieter, where Abby would be an ‘only dog’ and with an adult family member at home during the day. Although Addison’s is easily controlled through medications there is, of course, a financial outlay required for their purchase and the on-going blood tests required for life.
Nicole travelled to Sydney and met Abby and together with her family arranged for her to fly to Melbourne. Abby moved into her foster home with Nicole and her Airedale Storm. This arrangement worked well but Nicole needed to travel to South Australia and Greg and I offered to babysit her for an extended weekend.
19 March 2015: From the instant Abby trotted through our front door she was relaxed and Wesley fell in love. Milo was still with us but too old to care and Abby just ignored him. After much discussion with Nicole and AireNet the decision was made for Abby to be formally adopted into our family.
Abby’s Addison’s Disease is well controlled thanks to the wonderful Facebook group ‘Addison Dogs – Canine Addison’s Disease’. Our vets are great but have little experience with Addison’s compared to the years of first-hand experience of the group’s moderators, DVMs and Vets.
She is an adorable girl, very cuddly and loving – with people. She plays constantly with Wesley but unfortunately uses her very loud bark every time she sees another dog. We are slowly trying to change this with reward training but it will be quite a long while before we can take her to Airedale functions.