From the time I was a child, my brother and I always grew up with a dog. At one point, we had several dogs: one purchased and we took in several strays. And so, when you grow up with a dog as a part of your family, you tend to continue to have a dog as a part of your family.

Santa brought my son a Rottweiler / German Sheppard or Collie (or maybe both) mix rescue from the Humane Society for Christmas. I’ve always preferred rescues to pure bread dogs because they somehow seem to have that character of appreciation and unconditional love for sparing their lives.  So Lizzie is the dog my son has grown up with and she now is the center of attention since our son is away in college.

WhenLizzie began to shed this summer, I thought it odd, but was more concerned with all the hair on our carpet and getting it up than the reason why she was shedding. When she began to get slower and have some difficulty getting up, I thought it was joint or arthritis issues, even though she was only 8 years old (56 in dog years) . The herbal fix of glucosamine and chondroitin didn’t seem to work, so I took her to the vet. He gave her a trial sample of a prescription arthritis drug to see if she perked up. Indeed she seemed to perk up and so I bought the full prescription.

Then she began to have black tar-like looking stools, which indicated she was bleeding internally. The veterinarian said that it was likely the arthritis medicine causing an ulcer and that I should discontinue it. I did of course, and her weakness worsened. Not only that but she really became lethargic and didn’t have much energy at all.

Well, I can remember being anemic during kidney failure (because my kidneys were chewing up my red blood cells) and how tired I was. So I attributed her tiredness to being anemic.  But her symptoms continued to worsen and she stopped eating and shortly stopped drinking. The vet drew blood work and instructed me to get some water into her body by using a turkey baster to squeeze into her mouth, and he should have answers from the blood work in the morning.

When I called the vet, I couldn’t believe my ears–Lizzie is in kidney failure. Kidney failure? What? My first thought was, well, we’ll have to start dialysis until we can find a donor dog who is a tissue matches, right? Wrong said the vet, while there is a doggy dialysis machine at Michigan State, it is used for puppies who are poisened from drinking windshield washer solvent or something, or ate a bottle of Tylenol. They don’t make appointments for regular sessions.

Ok, so the possibilities came immediately to mind and not the probabilities. Even if she could have made appointments for dialysis, could I have really driven an hour each way and waited while she dialyzed? And the cost! I could have just heard my husband talking screaming about the $45 donation to the Humane
Society for the dog with the balloon payment in eight years.

The vet explained to me that the best starting treatment for dogs in kidney failure is hydration therapy. She would receive ongoing hydration packs regularly which has worked for some dogs for up to 2 years. So Lizzie spent two days in the hospital receiving IV fluids while I contemplated becoming a part time nurse to
my dog–my dog who has loved me unconditionally for eight years–I can do this.

When I called to check on her (it’s not a good idea to visit because they become confused why you came and didn’t take them home.) the vet said that each day brought a little more interest in food. When the vet rechecked her blood work, her BUN, potassium and sodium were within the normal canine range–her kidney function was restored!  Ecstatic with the news, I next asked, so what is wrong with her? What caused her kidneys to shut down? More extensive blood work diagnosed that Lizzie has Addison’s disease. As they say, hind sight is 20/20–the hair loss, the weight loss (10 lbs in a month), weakness and loss of appetite were classic symptoms.

Addison’s disease, a condition former president John F. Kennedy had, is controlled by Prednisone and a shot of Cortisol every 25 days. I can handle giving her a daily 5 mg pill of Prednisone hidden in a finger full of peanut butter. The near monthly shot costing about a hundred bucks a pop may turn into a shot from
one of my old insulin syringes–if I can purchase a vial of the cortisol.

After one shot of Cortisol and a little more than a week of Prednisone, I’m happy to report that Lizzie is better than new.

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