Once our smiling dog Bernie McSquare was diagnosed with atypical Addison's Disease, we sat down with our vet and put together a treatment plan. Within the first few months, we made a few small adjustments, but overall, the treatment plan has remained pretty consistent.
Bernie playing with two other Doodles at doggie daycare
Most days Bernie is a happy boy who loves life. He looks forward to our daily walks and slightly longer weekend adventures. Attending different obedience classes keeps him mentally sharp. Playing with his pals at doggie daycare and his little sister Lizzie keeps him spry.
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How do you treat Bernie's atypical Addison's Disease?
Medications & Supplements
- 1/2 mg Prednisone every other day
- 1/2 tablet Ranitidine (75mg) twice a day
- 1/2 tsp of milk thistle mixed into his food twice a day
- lots of fresh water
What do those medications & supplements do?
The Prednisone tells his adrenal gland to continue producing cortisol. Bernie makes a little cortisol on his own, but he needs that Prednisone to make enough for day-to-day living.
The Ranitidine is an acid reducer to relieve heart burn symptoms and help his tummy digest his food properly.
Bernie happily takes his pill medications with a little peanut butter.
The milk thistle helps detox his liver from the continued use of the steroid Prednisone.
Using Herbsmith's USDA Organic Milk Thistle is incredibly easy. Since Bernie is 37 pounds, he receives 1/2 teaspoon of milk thistle twice a day mixed right into his meal.
Be sure to check their dosing chart before you buy. I bought the 75gram jar because it comes with a 1/4 teaspoon scoop. The larger 150 gram jar comes with a 1 teaspoon scoop. When we needed to re-order more milk thistle for Bernie, for our convenience we kept the smaller 1/4 teaspoon scoop for use in the larger 150 gram jar!
Bernie needs fresh drinking water because taking steroids makes him thirsty! Super excessively thirsty! Plus we live in the desert. We have fresh water out all the time at home and I carry water with me everywhere I go.
How does stress play a part in treating atypical Addison's Disease?
Stress is bad for Bernie because his adrenal gland can't produce enough cortisol to respond to stress effectively. Most dogs quickly produce additional cortisol when they are stressed.
Bernie's cortisol factory never works overtime. Just scheduled shifts. His adrenal gland can't adapt to various levels of stress, so we have to anticipate stressors for him. Figuring out what stresses Bernie is not always an easy task. We have to read him carefully.
What signs of stress do you notice with Bernie?
Lack of appetite
When we see that Bernie doesn't finish a meal, we immediately take into account any training treats he's had that day. We train frequently, so if he's had lots of chicken during an hour-long obedience class, he's not going to eat as much for dinner.
However, if we see that he has not eaten a few meals in a row, we get concerned. He could be experiencing stressors that we don't see easily. He potentially needs an extra dose of Prednisone.
A depressed demeanor
Bernie has a jauntiness in his step when we're out for our daily walks. If it's windy, he loves to hold his head up into the breeze, shake a little, and then look at me with his smile. Sure, he may get tired on the walk, but when we get back to the car, he's all smiles again.
If I notice a less enthused Doodle, then my level of concern goes up. If he avoids playing with Lizzie, I get a little worried.
Bernie is a sensitive submissive dog. He just wants to love on everyone. If he seems down for more than a day or two, we often support him with an extra dose of Prednisone and see how he does.
How do you keep track of all of these symptoms?
We are the OCD people, so we track quite a bit of data on both of our dogs:
- Output (poops, pees, vomit)
- Special outings or activities
You can read about our system for tracking all of this data in my post "Communicating More Effectively With Your Veterinarian."
What events have stressed Bernie?
His people going out-of-town
If either one of us goes out-of-town, Bernie gets stressed. He's used to our wonky schedule. I have a typical Monday through Friday job as a library specialist, but Matthew works nights at a local hospital. How and when we spend our time together as a pack varies week-to-week.
When Matthew and I go out-of-town together, Bernie goes to the kennel-free Tucson Adventure Dog Ranch. He loves the activity schedule there and comes home tired, but happy.
Close quarters to barky neighbor dogs
We had been living in a condominium and considering moving to a house with a back yard. When three dogs moved in two units down from us, we moved up our timeline for moving out. The funnel-like row of condos required that everyone living in the last three condos walk by the home with the three barky dogs.
Every time I had to walk Bernie by the barky dog condo, he'd get upset. At first, he'd whimper. Then he got fed up with being barked at, so he joined in with the barkers. Our two other neighbors who also had to walk by barky dog condo would also trigger the barking outbursts every time they came or went.
Amazon Prime's ocean and rain sound videos were great during this trying period. We'd leave the living room TV on with the ocean waves crashing or rain splattering down for the daytime hours when Matthew would be sleeping and I'd be at work. If our neighbors walked by the barky dog home, the nature sounds drowned out the barking.
Our move was local so we coordinated our dates carefully. We had about two weeks to get some work done in our new home before we moved out of our condominium. During those two weeks, we brought the dogs over to the new place a few times.
On the day of the move, our groomer watched Bernie and Lizzie at her home with her dogs. When Bernie heard her turn on the shower, he bolted out into her yard because he thought it was bath time. Boy, was he relieved that all he had to do was play with his pals from doggie daycare.
On our first few nights in our new home, we took short neighborhood walks with the pups. Typically, I like to vary up their sniffs, so we drive to various locations for our regular walks. However, a few times each month, I will walk the dogs through our neighborhood so they have a sense of where things are.
Rattlesnake Avoidance Class
We live in the desert. We have critters, including the deadly kind. We've seen rattlesnakes by the pool in our old HOA. Check out the pictures of the Gila Monster that was right outside our door!
Rattlesnake Avoidance Class truly is necessary if you want to adventure with your dogs anywhere.
Bernie did really well with the training. We made sure he had a dose of Prednisone that morning, but our big mistake was not giving him support doses for a day or two ahead of the training. The day after the Rattlesnake Avoidance Class, he threw up a bit of tummy bile with blood in it. He bounced back pretty quickly because we had minimized other stressors, but we learned to give him at least two consecutive days of Prednisone before stressful events that we know of.
Sometimes Bernie just get stressed and we don't have a clear picture of why.
We encounter lots of different people and pups. We play at the dog park every once in a while. We go on special outings or train or attend doggie daycare. What may trigger a flare up of his Addison's Disease is sometimes a mystery to us. We just watch for signs that our boy is feeling stressed and treat accordingly.
What's it really like having a dog with atypical Addison's Disease?
Matthew has not read Harry Potter, but when it comes to observing and monitoring our atypical Addison's dog, he's on board with Mad Eye Moody's philosophy of "Constant Vigilance!" And that's the stressful part for us. We're always on guard wondering what might trigger an Addison's flare.
The biggest lesson we've learned is to give him an extra dose of Prednisone before any events that we think may make him anxious. When we're out for walks, we don't encounter too many unusual stressors, but if we ever did, Bernie would get an added dose. We've learned to be more proactive in trying to help his system produce the cortisol he needs.
In terms of treating Bernie's atypical Addison's Disease, that's actually pretty manageable for now. Using the composition book to record all dog activity makes it simple to see all recent history. And when we are in doubt about how he's doing, we get him into our vet quickly. We like to err on the side of caution.