Beauty and Disease. With Addison's Disease, One Call Says It All

Cooper strikes a Valentino pose.

The following is a lightly edited transcript of a telephone conversation between Barb and me last week. Or maybe I just imagined it this way…

Barb: How are you?

Me: (huffing and puffing on an elliptical machine at the fitness center) I’m good. What’s up.

Barb: I just wanted to tell you, I picked Cooper up from the vet. And it happened again. The vet tech kept telling me how everyone in the place kept coming up to her and telling saying how handsome and gorgeous he is! I knew you would get a kick out of that!

Me: No surprises. Everyone tells us that. Anything else going on?

Barb: Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to tell you. They did a lab test and say he has no cortisol in his blood. They think he has Addison’s disease.

Me: (phone drop)

First–let’s talk about Beauty. It is a fact. Everyone we meet does let us know how handsome Cooper is, with his deep chocolate coat and the blond highlights around his muzzle And then most people mention his piercing, golden, almost human eyes that give a hint of his playful intelligence. He is a good-looking dude; we know it, he knows it, the whole neighborhood knows it. But Barb and I still are amused by all the confirmation Cooper gets.

Health has been a different matter. The Coop has been a bouncy, happy, pup, filled with energy and mischief. But his gastrointestinal system has never matured with the rest of him. Limited ingredient dog foods, prescription diets, and multiple courses of antibiotics have provided minimal improvement.

As a next step, we scheduled an appointment with a local veterinary specialty clinic. After a 10-week wait, Cooper was seen by the specialty internist. After reviewing the history, he too felt that it would probably be some combination of diet and probiotics that would eventually solve the digestive problems.

“But,” he said, “with your permission, I would like to run a few blood tests, just in case something else is going on here.”

And that brings us to where we are now, with no cortisol, the key steroid hormone from the adrenal gland. As a pathologist, I know you can rarely make a diagnosis based on a single test result and some additional tests are in the pipeline. But I am pretty confident Coop, with his marked cortisol deficiency, does have Addison’s, and now we just have to figure out why.

This is upsetting, but certainly not a tragedy; it should just be a small setback in Cooper’s life. When all the tests are completed we will know how best to treat the condition. With proper care, Cooper should have a long, happy life.

With our help, this Beauty will beat his disease.

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