Treatment for One Illness May Lead to Another
When a dog isn’t improving, the veterinarian may choose to re-evaluate the diagnosis.
Jon Geller, DVM
Q. I took my English Mastiff to the vet because he was weak and hadn’t been eating for a week. The doctor diagnosed him with Addison's disease, which they treated (he is stable), but then pneumonia appeared out of nowhere. The doctors are giving him a slim chance because the medication he is taking for Addison's doesn't mix well with the pneumonia. He is only 2 years old, and we love him dearly.
Are there other medications he can take for the Addison's disease that will not interfere with the pneumonia? He has difficulty breathing and is trying to cough up whatever is in his system. They put him on oxygen. I’m not sure what to do. I think the doctors know what they’re doing, but I feel this should have been caught sooner! It has run me $2,700 already, and costing more each day.
A. I’m sorry to hear about the problems with your English Mastiff. Unfortunately, sometimes a chain of events can start with a visit to a veterinary hospital. A medication that’s started to treat one disease could have an adverse reaction, which leads to a new problem. More medications are added, and new problems pop up. The stress of hospitalization can cause loss of appetite and diarrhea. Sometimes, hospitalized pets pick up new infections at veterinary hospitals, where (as in human hospitals) germs can run rampant.
This is not to suggest that dog owners should not seek treatment from their veterinarians. However, veterinary medicine is not an exact science. Sometimes, you must be prepared for a roller coaster ride. Most cases are treated successfully, but a small percentage of cases will push dog owners and veterinarians to their financial and scientific capabilities.
In your dog's case, the treatment for Addison's disease may have suppressed his immune system, leading to the pneumonia. However, there’s no reason why your dog should not be treated with appropriate antibiotics even while receiving the medication for Addison's disease.
When things start to go wrong, veterinarians should go back to their original diagnosis and ask, "What else can it be?" It’s important to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together so they make sense. Ask your veterinarian to review the case one more time to make sure that Addison's disease and pneumonia are the correct working diagnosis. I cannot tell you how many times I have made a few assumptions and misdiagnosed a case, only to figure it all out later when I looked back at all of the information because the dog was not improving.
Once you and your veterinarian are confident of the diagnosis, your Mastiff will hopefully improve with appropriate treatment. However, it probably will require patience and persistence.
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