Addison’s Disease in Dogs: Tango’s Story

Tango, a two-year-old male English Shepherd, was diagnosed with Addison’s disease in late October 2018.

Vet Bill: $1,901

Tango - English Shepherd with Addison's Disease 

Tango's owner, Petra B., of Vista, California, shares his story.

“Tango was a healthy puppy and didn’t have any health problems as he was growing. A couple of months after he turned two years old I noticed he was quieter than normal. He was usually an active dog, especially when I come home from work, but that became less so. He was different.”

She continued that he didn’t eat his breakfast one Saturday morning, which was very unusual. When she, Tango, and her other dog, Poncho, met up with some friends and their dogs, everyone said that Tango wasn’t acting like himself. Instead of playing, he found a quiet corner to lay down. Petra knew something was up.

The following morning, Tango was no better. He had missed three meals, so Petra took him to the local veterinary emergency clinic. After a discussion with the veterinarian, a physical examination, and x-rays of his abdomen, the veterinarian diagnosed Tango with gastrointestinal upset. At that point, Tango had lost seven pounds. He was given subQ fluids and medication for his upset belly.

Petra said, “The next day, Tango was feeling a bit better. He ate, although not much, and seemed to have a little bit more energy. But by the following morning Tango was much worse. He was lethargic, refused to eat, and was bony; he felt like a fur-covered skeleton. She called her regular veterinarian and got him in that morning.

Addison’s disease is caused by a lower than normal production of hormones produced by the adrenal glands. These glands are located near the kidneys. The hormones produced by these small glands control many vital bodily functions, including the water balance in the body and salt and sugar levels.

Since Addison’s disease isn’t especially prevalent in Tango’s breed, it wasn’t the first thing his veterinarian was looking for.

However, Tango’s veterinarian ordered a complete blood panel and found that his sodium and potassium levels were abnormal, two keys to an Addison’s disease diagnosis. Tango was admitted to the hospital and an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) test was performed. ACTH is produced by the pituitary gland, stimulating the adrenal glands to produce their hormones. The test calls for injecting ACTH to test the response of the adrenal glands. After the test, Tango was diagnosed with Addison’s disease.

Since Tango was diagnosed relatively early in the progression of the disease and had not faced an acute episode of hypoadrenocorticism, he did not require extensive treatment in the hospital. Once diagnosed, he was released, and Petra was able to take him home.

He has responded to the hormone injections every 25 days as well as the daily prednisone. The dosage of the prednisone has been adjusted up and down a couple of times to find the lowest maintenance dosage, but Petra and her veterinarian are in good communication.

Tango has gained back the weight he had lost, his appetite is much better, and although his activity levels aren’t quite back to normal, he’s getting there. Even better, his eyes are bright, he’s happy, and he looks like the dog he was before. In addition, since dogs with Addison’s can’t produce more cortisol when stressed, Petra has instructions from her veterinarian about what to do should he become stressed and show symptoms of a potential problem. During a recent road trip, Tango did extremely well, and no additional medication was needed.

Petra admits that the diagnosis was frightening. “No one wants to hear that their two-year-old dog will require life-long medication and treatment,” she said. Though she did admit that having a treatable illness was certainly better than not knowing what was going on with her best friend.

Tango's Claim Refund

Claim Details Amount
Actual Vet Bill $1,901.52
Covered Charges $1,901.52
Annual Deductible -$650*
20% Co-pay -$250.30
Total Embrace Reimbursement $1,001.22
Tango’s deductible is $750, but thanks to Embrace’s Healthy Pet Deductible, it went down by $100 because he did not receive a claim reimbursement in two prior policy years.
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