Amber's adverse signs

Amber Rose is one of our frequent Barks in the Park participants. She's a shy, three-year-old Cockalier who comes out of her shell when her ball-crazy sister Bonnie is around. 


Recently, Amber’s mother noticed something was not quite right. Amber was getting very restless at night, going in and out of the house but not necessarily to go to the toilet and she hadn’t experienced any other gastro symptoms. Amber didn’t appear to be in pain, she could walk fine although she did seem to be a little ‘out of it’. Amber was also drinking and urinating a fair bit more. So she visited us at the clinic.

Her clinical examination showed there was nothing wrong with her mouth, heart, ears, eyes, muscles or bones… apart from a small amount of discomfort when touched around her upper abdomen. Further investigation was required.

Amber’s urine was collected and we tested it immediately. The results of the tests ruled out a urine infection, so what was wrong? At this stage there was any number of different diseases that could be causing these signs. We requested a comprehensive blood panel from the laboratory. As Amber was not critically ill, she went home where she would be most comfortable while waiting for the results.

Amber's blood tests included those for kidneys, liver, pancreas, electrolytes, red cells, white cells, platelets, glucose, ions, bone enzymes and more. The tests ruled out a lot of problems.

But it showed Amber had low sodium and high potassium, a common feature of what's called Addison's disease (hypoadrenocorticism). While this ratio is not definitive for diagnosing the disease, it helped us know what to do next. When adrenal insufficiency first develops the signs are very vague but once diagnosed the pieces usually fall together quite well.

So what is Addison’s? It is a disease of the adrenal glands, which are well known for producing adrenaline involved in ‘fight or flight’ responses when the body is under stress. It's lesser-known function is producing hormones such as Aldosterone and Cortisol which help to maintain the balance of sodium and potassium by working on receptors in the kidneys.

Lucky for Amber, her mother had her checked out before her potassium levels got too high. She avoided what's called an Addisonian Crisis, which is when the high levels of potassium cause havoc in the body, including causing cardiac problems.

We then tested Amber's adrenal gland's ability to produce Cortisol, leading to a definitive diagnosis of Addison's disease.

Amber will need to take medication for her life, and will need more regular check-ups than other dogs her age. She responded to treatment very well and is back to living a normal, fun-filled and happy life.