The following correspondence is from an owner who kept me informed of her dog’s status, but chose not pursue adrenal hormone testing and treatment. Her story is fairly typical. I’ve heard it many times over the past decade. The dog’s name has been changed. The owner’s comments are in black. My comments are in italics.
– Caroline Levin
(Two months after onset)
Hi Caroline, I’m happy to report that eight weeks after going blind Sam (8-year-old Miniature Schnauzer) has adapted well to SARDS. His confusion and depression have improved and he goes on walks in the park again.
Hormone testing reveals that dogs experience adrenal exhaustion at the time of SARD diagnosis. In some cases, the symptoms of incontinence, excessive drinking, etc., resolve as the body learns to tolerate these elevated sex- hormone levels or the seasons change. This seems like good news—right? Unfortunately it provides a false sense that the dog has adapted. Typically, excess estrogen will go on to do “silent” damage in the coming months and years.
(Six months after onset)
Hi Caroline, Sam continues to do very well. However, these last few nights he’s been panting like a freight train. It’s cool here these days, especially at night, so I’m kind of surprised he’s panting so hard.
(Eight months after onset)
Sam’s been put on a diet because he is just so overweight. He now gets a prescription diet food. He’s still got a big appetite, so he hasn’t lost any weight, yet. He’s also developed a number of little flesh-colored bumps on his neck. They are filled with a thick oily substance kind of like pimples, but they don’t seem to bother him.
As adrenal exhaustion advances and the body has increasing difficulty producing cortisol, the precursors or “building blocks” of cortisol (progestagens) accumulate and spill over into another pathway in the adrenal gland. This pathway produces the sex-hormones… androgens, testosterone, and estrogen.
This pile-up of progestagens can cause high blood sugar, increase body heat (panting), appetite and weight gain. Excess androgens cause acne and affect hair growth. Excess estrogen causes symptoms much like cortisol including fatigue, confusion, irritability, seizures, incontinence, kidney and liver disease, and bone marrow depression (cancer). If these hormones are only mildly elevated, the dog may have a fairly good quality of life. But if the levels of these sex-hormones rise, the dog will experience more problems.
(11 months after onset)
Hi Caroline, Sam has been growing more confused lately. He’s also having incontinence problems. His bed was wet this morning when he woke up.
(21 months after onset)
Sam’s eyelids are red around the edges. He rubs his face on the carpet in the morning as though he’s trying to scratch his eyes.
As estrogen levels rise, IgA levels drop. IgA is one of the immunoglobulins …the “soldiers” of the immune system. IgA normally protects mucous membranes and tear fluid. When IgA levels are low, eyes and skin becomes red and itchy, ears, intestines, and the bladder may also be inflamed.
(2 years, 2 months after onset)
Lately Sam has been having more and more problems peeing in the house. He’s also had a BM once or twice, indoors. He sleeps a lot. He is still really obese which I worry is affecting his heart. (He still pants very hard sometimes at night for no reason.)
To recap, excess estrogen causes urinary frequency, fatigue, and obesity. Most untreated SARD dogs never return to their normal body weight. Elevated androgens raise body temperature and causes excess panting.
(2 years, 4 months after onset)
Sam passed away in his sleep today. The doctor thinks it was heart failure. I will miss him so much. I appreciate all your concern for him.
Very low cortisol can cause what’s known as “a crash” or “crisis”. It includes symptoms such as appetite loss, vomiting, lethargy, and heart failure.
SARD-dog owners will often state that their dog is “doing well” and is “fine for his age,” while at the same time reporting ongoing problems such as panting, incontinence, obesity, confusion, and fatigue. Testing for, and treating the underlying adrenal exhaustion can prevent additional health problems and improve the dog’s quality of life. When initiated promptly along with protective retinal therapies, hormone therapy has also restored functional vision in 20%-55% of cases.
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