Canine Addison's Disease FAQ

Q. My dog has just been diagnosed - what can I expect???

A. A Year with AD: Lessons Learned

What a difference a year makes! Many times this past month I have looked at Nutmeg and remembered how gravely ill she was this time last year. When she had her DOCP earlier this month, the vet said she was doing very well and attributed it to our taking such good care of her. I, in turn, must attribute it to this list taking such good care of me. The support and knowledge on this list sustained me through the initial uncertainties and beyond. I am extremely grateful to Susan and Melody for starting this list and to everyone else for always being there. I would like to share a few of the important lessons I have learned this past year in the hope that some of our newer members can find something helpful in dealing with AD.

1. Write everything down. Keep track of medication dosages and dates (especially any changes made), dates and results of blood tests, any symptoms or unusual signs, weight changes, changes in appetite or diet, addition or discontinuation of supplements. Even if it seems insignificant at the time, it may reveal a pattern later. Keep copies of blood tests if possible.

2. Know your dog's stressors. Events that didn't previously seem stressful to your dog may produce symptoms now. Keep track of any stress factors and how you dealt with them before and after the fact. For example, we found that giving additional glucocorticoid post-stress was just as important as giving it pre-stress.

3. Change only thing at a time. For example, if you are in the process of adjusting the medication dose, don't add any supplements or make any dietary changes at the same time, or you won't know which change helped or hindered. And since you'll be writing down every little change, it will be easy to tell which change is having which effect.

4. Trust your instincts. You know your dog best and you will be best able to tell if something isn't quite right. Write down any problems and discussthem with your vet.

5. Be pro-active in your dog's care. Conduct your own research, look at the links other list members provide (and please share any good links you find with the rest of us), and discuss your dog's care with your vet. Your vet may or may not be knowledgeable about AD, but he or she is not likely to be as focused on a single disease as you will be. Even vets who are familiar with treating AD will probably be appreciative of facts that you can supply. If your vet is not open to new ideas, and you are not happy with the care being provided, it may be time to consider finding a new vet. You are your dog's best advocate, and it is up to you to make sure your dog is gettingthe best care possible.

6. Listen to the opinions expressed by others on some of the controversial topics, do your own research, and then form your own opinion in cooperation with your vet. What is right for one dog may not be right for yours. You and your vet should be in agreement about issues surrounding your dog's care.

7. It may take a lot of time and fine tuning to get everything adjusted properly so that your dog is feeling good. It may even take over a year before some of the old behaviors return. If you have kept track of everything and changed one thing at a time, the adjusting process will be easier.

At times this has seemed like a very long year of adjusting this and that. It took Nutmeg almost 11 months after diagnosis before some of the old behaviors that I had missed started to return. There are still some things I would like to change, one at a time, to make sure she is as happy and as healthy as she can be. I know we're on the right track because I can see improvement. The rest requires patience. (courtesy Vicki C)

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