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Sick pet with no diagnosis: horrific GI issues (atypical addision potentially), thousands of $ on tests, no answers

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Hi all,

We are absolutely exhausted, financially struggling, and so heartbroken that we can't figure out what's wrong with our 1.5 year old red golden. We need help - I know this is long, but please if you have time can you read and weigh in? We got him from an AKC certified breeder in NM that had all the health qualifications for and good reviews. But his health has been nothing short of a nightmare since bringing him home on June 1st 2021.

Bringing him home, we transitioned him from the puppy Purina Pro Plan he was eating to Fromms large breed puppy (in retrospect, I wouldn't have but Fromms was recommended by a friend with dogs at the time). He did relatively well and ate it up, but never had solid poops ( soft serve texture). He was in and out of the vet those first few months for chronic diarrhea. We would do stool tests, they were always negative for parasites or giardia or anything.

End of July 2021/beginning of August 2021 it was like a flip switched and he could no longer tolerate Fromms. He would have explosive, mucusy diarrhea in his crate (he had previous never had a crate accident). Chicken and rice relatively worked, but everytime we added his kibble back the diarrhea explosions would start again. He was so skinny and couldn't keep any weight on because his food just passed right through him.

Vet tried to get him on the Royal Canin GI blend, and that caused his worst diarrhea ever. I wondered food intolerance, but vet said food intolerance tests were unreliable. From there, we transitioned him on Purina Pro Plan Hydrolyzed Chicken in August/September 2021. It was like magic: firm poops for the first time ever. He had a few boughts of diarrhea over the year (1 time postive for giardia) but mostly good.

Starting this summer 2022, he started regurgitating food randomly if we put him in crate right after eating. We didn't know why. We started feeding him in his crate (wondering if it was anxiety) and that solved it. Then, starting October 29th he stopped eating all of his food, which was very odd. A few days later (November 2nd), he wouldn't eat anything or drink water. That night he started throwing everything up: he threw up 10 times in 12 hours even when he had nothing left. The next morning (November 3rd) he couldn't even keep down water.

Our vet couldn't see him on 11/3, so I took him to an emergency vet. $1,000 later they did xrays, bloodwork, exam and found nothing abnormal except tight abdomen and tacky gums from vomiting. He was sent home with a gastroentitis diagnosis. The next day he still refused to drink water or eat. It had been 48 hours since he kept water down, so I took him back to our vet. They gave him fluids, did more bloodwork, more xrays, nothing abnormal outside of a 104 fever which made them think infection. They sent him home with antibiotics and anti-nausea meds.

Since he's on a hydrolyzed diet, we were told not to give him chicken and rice but the soft canned version of his food. He eventually started to show interest in it. By the end of his antibiotics, his appetite had improved and he was eating all his food. We transitioned back to kibble and he ate it all. Besides soft poops (which vet thinks was due to antibiotics), he was almost 100%: slightly lethargic, but mostly better.

Starting on November 17th, his symtoms returned almost exactly the same: started not finishing food, turned into not eating at all, started vomiting again and refusing to eat or drink. I took him back to the vet: more xrays, more bloodwork (biochemical profile, CBC, electrolytes), more exam, more $. No diagnosis. The only thing the vet said was that cortisol was slightly raised and she's wondering about Atypical Addisons Disease. I've been reading about it and though a lot of the symptoms sound similar, they are also broad symptoms.

I like our vet and she's been very communicative with me which I appreciate, but she won't give him more antibiotics at this point without fever. I have expressed my concern that he is prone to secondary infections and takes a long time to kick infections, but she doesn't want to give him more. I'm confused why if it's not an infection why it got better on antibiotics though?

Do you all have any thoughts? We're at our wits end here. Our whole life has become taking this dog to the vet, we are constantly worrying about his stomach, paying for expensive tests and expensive foods.

If your dog has Atypical Addisons, did it start like this? Could this be a really bad stomach infection? Has he built up an intolerance to his food? (Not sure how if that's the case he would eat the soft version but refuse the kibble. It's the exact same formula with more water.) Should we take him somewhere else and get a second opinion? We're based in Denver metro area if you have good suggestions

As you can tell, we're really struggling and worried.
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My suggestion at this point would be to take him to a university veterinary hospital and work with their specialists. I believe there are two in Colorado?

It does sound like you are dealing with a primary food allergy and secondary infections. Would be good to have a specialist scope the gut to see what’s going on and they can decide whether to follow up on Addison’s
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
My suggestion at this point would be to take him to a university veterinary hospital and work with their specialists. I believe there are two in Colorado?

It does sound like you are dealing with a primary food allergy and secondary infections. Would be good to have a specialist scope the gut to see what’s going on and they can decide whether to follow up on Addison’s
Thank you, Tagrenine. We've been thinking that a specialist is the point we're at too. Do you know what CO universities have vet hospitals by chance? I believe Colorado State in Fort Collins does but not sure on the other. We also found a specialist in Colorado Springs that seems to be well-reviewed.
 

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Thank you, Tagrenine. We've been thinking that a specialist is the point we're at too. Do you know what CO universities have vet hospitals by chance? I believe Colorado State in Fort Collins does but not sure on the other. We also found a specialist in Colorado Springs that seems to be well-reviewed.
Yeah CSU does. You might need a referral from your primary care veterinarian to get a specialist apt though.
 

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And I would make the request ASAP. My experience is that getting appointments with veterinary specialists is as tough as seeing human specialists.
 
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Kristy
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My heart goes out to you, you all have really been through the wringer with this. Please keep us updated, you might even ask your vet for help speeding the process of getting an appointment if you have had a good relationship with her. I hope you find answers that are easily resolved.
 

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I am sorry I'm of no help at all.. but I just wanted to say I empathize with everything you're going through - when I read your post the feeling of helplessness comes back to me. I went through something similar exactly last year but my golden had hookworms - so at least he had a diagnosis and I felt immediately better. I really hope the specialists can figure out what's wrong with your golden and all the best to him and also you.. I really hope everything is going to be resolved for your golden, he's a beautiful boy.. please keep us updated.
 

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I am so sorry you and your pupper are going through this. If a vet has not already mentioned Intussusception, I would ask if that is a possibility of the cause of issues. I know of a young golden who had this and it presented some of the same issues. Not saying this is what is going on with your pupper but since her family struggled with getting to a diagnosis and I had not heard of it before, I figured I’d share as a question to ask.
 

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+1 for an Internal Medicine Specialist. My older dog (now passed) had weird GI issues and we saw an IMS who diagnosed him with IBD after doing an endoscopy + biopsy.

IBD is a frustrating diagnosis because not all afflicted dogs present the same way - I know dogs who had the same symptoms your boy does, but my boy had on-off chronic vomiting issues initially as a 2yr old, no issues for 4 years, then randomly started with severe abdominal pain, an episode of HGE that required hospitalization, lingering bloody diarrhea afterwards, chronic bloating, chronic weight loss, etc. His appetite was fine throughout and he no longer had any vomiting issues for that second flare up.

FWIW, the ONLY prescription food that Kaizer ever did well on was Royal Canin Ultamino - it's very expensive, but the food is ultra hydrolyzed.
 

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Hi all,

We are absolutely exhausted, financially struggling, and so heartbroken that we can't figure out what's wrong with our 1.5 year old red golden. We need help - I know this is long, but please if you have time can you read and weigh in? We got him from an AKC certified breeder in NM that had all the health qualifications for and good reviews. But his health has been nothing short of a nightmare since bringing him home on June 1st 2021.

Bringing him home, we transitioned him from the puppy Purina Pro Plan he was eating to Fromms large breed puppy (in retrospect, I wouldn't have but Fromms was recommended by a friend with dogs at the time). He did relatively well and ate it up, but never had solid poops ( soft serve texture). He was in and out of the vet those first few months for chronic diarrhea. We would do stool tests, they were always negative for parasites or giardia or anything.

End of July 2021/beginning of August 2021 it was like a flip switched and he could no longer tolerate Fromms. He would have explosive, mucusy diarrhea in his crate (he had previous never had a crate accident). Chicken and rice relatively worked, but everytime we added his kibble back the diarrhea explosions would start again. He was so skinny and couldn't keep any weight on because his food just passed right through him.

Vet tried to get him on the Royal Canin GI blend, and that caused his worst diarrhea ever. I wondered food intolerance, but vet said food intolerance tests were unreliable. From there, we transitioned him on Purina Pro Plan Hydrolyzed Chicken in August/September 2021. It was like magic: firm poops for the first time ever. He had a few boughts of diarrhea over the year (1 time postive for giardia) but mostly good.

Starting this summer 2022, he started regurgitating food randomly if we put him in crate right after eating. We didn't know why. We started feeding him in his crate (wondering if it was anxiety) and that solved it. Then, starting October 29th he stopped eating all of his food, which was very odd. A few days later (November 2nd), he wouldn't eat anything or drink water. That night he started throwing everything up: he threw up 10 times in 12 hours even when he had nothing left. The next morning (November 3rd) he couldn't even keep down water.

Our vet couldn't see him on 11/3, so I took him to an emergency vet. $1,000 later they did xrays, bloodwork, exam and found nothing abnormal except tight abdomen and tacky gums from vomiting. He was sent home with a gastroentitis diagnosis. The next day he still refused to drink water or eat. It had been 48 hours since he kept water down, so I took him back to our vet. They gave him fluids, did more bloodwork, more xrays, nothing abnormal outside of a 104 fever which made them think infection. They sent him home with antibiotics and anti-nausea meds.

Since he's on a hydrolyzed diet, we were told not to give him chicken and rice but the soft canned version of his food. He eventually started to show interest in it. By the end of his antibiotics, his appetite had improved and he was eating all his food. We transitioned back to kibble and he ate it all. Besides soft poops (which vet thinks was due to antibiotics), he was almost 100%: slightly lethargic, but mostly better.

Starting on November 17th, his symtoms returned almost exactly the same: started not finishing food, turned into not eating at all, started vomiting again and refusing to eat or drink. I took him back to the vet: more xrays, more bloodwork (biochemical profile, CBC, electrolytes), more exam, more $. No diagnosis. The only thing the vet said was that cortisol was slightly raised and she's wondering about Atypical Addisons Disease. I've been reading about it and though a lot of the symptoms sound similar, they are also broad symptoms.

I like our vet and she's been very communicative with me which I appreciate, but she won't give him more antibiotics at this point without fever. I have expressed my concern that he is prone to secondary infections and takes a long time to kick infections, but she doesn't want to give him more. I'm confused why if it's not an infection why it got better on antibiotics though?

Do you all have any thoughts? We're at our wits end here. Our whole life has become taking this dog to the vet, we are constantly worrying about his stomach, paying for expensive tests and expensive foods.

If your dog has Atypical Addisons, did it start like this? Could this be a really bad stomach infection? Has he built up an intolerance to his food? (Not sure how if that's the case he would eat the soft version but refuse the kibble. It's the exact same formula with more water.) Should we take him somewhere else and get a second opinion? We're based in Denver metro area if you have good suggestions

As you can tell, we're really struggling and worried.
This sounds exactly like our 10 month old golden! He has been through everything and they even thought he had Addisons, but ruled it out with the blood test! He also had low cortisols levels too. He’s on the Royal Canin Hydrolyzed protein diet with probiotics!! Have you tried probiotics? That’s the only thing that has every helped settle his belly! We did 2 bottles of the Visbiome ones and now we just do the Purina FortiFlora daily. It has made a huge difference, he’s not vomiting or have diarrhea! Like you, we’ve spent thousands on trying to figure out what’s wrong with him!! Please let me know if you want to chat some more!!
 

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He might be developing food aversions after vomiting. This is a normal reaction- seen in all species including humans. My dog stopped eating his food after a bout of vomiting. I had to switch up his food. I wonder if your dog also has bad reflux. Maybe they could trial omeprazole?
 

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Another vote for a specialist and putting him on probiotics. Purina’s Forti Flora is one of the best. If he’s been on and off antibiotics for most of his life, his gut biome is probably way out of balance. The probiotics will help get the right bacteria growing again.

When he first starts vomiting, are there ever any plant pieces in it? Do you have any house plants?
 

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I also recommend the Forti Flora - it has worked wonders for my girl's gut after bouts of diarrhea. And she is actually on a short course of it right now after a bad vomiting bout (14 times in two hours, and then once more at the ER vet). She was given cerenia and fluids by IV, then I got to take her home with omeprazole (an antacid) and Forti Flora. I didn't even realize it was useful after vomiting - she is on one called Forti Flora SA (synbiotic action), which is a pre and probiotic together.

If she had not stopped the vomiting with the cerenia, their next move would have been full blood and x-rays. They were worried with that much vomiting that she could rupture her stomach or aspirate. Had she continued vomiting and those tests showed nothing, they would have done an ultrasound of her belly. (I'm only relaying this to give an idea of what my vets were doing in response to unexplained vomiting as a comparison). I was told to feed very small amounts of white rice (like a couple of tablespoons to start) four times a day for a few days, and then if she kept that down, to start mixing in small amounts of kibble (again, like tablespoons to start).

My dog never had a fever with this - does your dog get a fever every time this happens? That would be a key thing to know. It does sound like a really difficult situation. Getting to one of the vet schools may be a good idea at this point. I really hope they can help you figure out what's going on.
 

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Thanks everyone for these comments. Oliver is on a probitiotic (not Forti FLora) and antacid daily so when he's done with this box, I will probably get more Forti Flora. I have an appointment at CSU Internal Medicine first week of February, which is obviously a long ways out. I will call other places but I don't want to waste our money at multiple specialists and taking it as a good sign that they're hard to get into.

He's been on cerenia for the past week so we could get him through Thanksgiving travel and his appetite returned like normal. Tomorrow will be his first day without them again, so we'll see how it goes. We spent the whole week with my family, he was on cerenia and was totally normal (lively, playful, happy). However when we got home last night and entered our house, he immediately started lick lipping/gagging and showing signs of nausea which he hadn't done all week. Maybe just remembering he kept getting sick here?

I just want him to feel better. He's spent so much of his little life sick (and I spend so much of mine worrying about him).

EDIT: His test for addisons and atypical addisons came back negative.
 

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This sounds exactly like our 10 month old golden! He has been through everything and they even thought he had Addisons, but ruled it out with the blood test! He also had low cortisols levels too. He’s on the Royal Canin Hydrolyzed protein diet with probiotics!! Have you tried probiotics? That’s the only thing that has every helped settle his belly! We did 2 bottles of the Visbiome ones and now we just do the Purina FortiFlora daily. It has made a huge difference, he’s not vomiting or have diarrhea! Like you, we’ve spent thousands on trying to figure out what’s wrong with him!! Please let me know if you want to chat some more!!
I'm so sorry you guys have gone through this too. I wonder if we need to try another hydrolyzed kibble because he's developed an aversion/intolerance to this one? Again, our vet was pretty strong that he couldn't be having an intolerance to a hydrolyzed diet, but his stomach is so sensitive. I will absolutely follow up if I have more questions. It's really hard and isolating to go through such intense pet sickness, so thank you!
 

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.....he was on cerenia and was totally normal (lively, playful, happy). However when we got home last night and entered our house, he immediately started lick lipping/gagging and showing signs of nausea which he hadn't done all week. Maybe just remembering he kept getting sick here?....
EDIT: His test for addisons and atypical addisons came back negative.
Thank you for updating us... That is crazy that he seemed fine and then acted nauseous upon returning home. Could it have been from the car ride? Did he settle down? My collie was very car sick as a puppy. Here's what's interesting: He grew out of it, but if I tried to put his harness that was just for being buckled into the car on him, he would start drooling like a faucet while we were still in the house. Completely triggered/associated harness with being sick. I hope you all get some relief and into a good pattern while waiting for Feb. I'm so glad you chose CSU. I admire how hard you are working to care for your dog and see this through. He's incredibly lucky to be in your home.
 

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We spent the whole week with my family, he was on cerenia and was totally normal (lively, playful, happy). However when we got home last night and entered our house, he immediately started lick lipping/gagging and showing signs of nausea which he hadn't done all week. Maybe just remembering he kept getting sick here?
Was he still on the cerenia when you got home and he got nauseous again?
 

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Thanks everyone for these comments. Oliver is on a probitiotic (not Forti FLora) and antacid daily so when he's done with this box, I will probably get more Forti Flora. I have an appointment at CSU Internal Medicine first week of February, which is obviously a long ways out. I will call other places but I don't want to waste our money at multiple specialists and taking it as a good sign that they're hard to get into.

He's been on cerenia for the past week so we could get him through Thanksgiving travel and his appetite returned like normal. Tomorrow will be his first day without them again, so we'll see how it goes. We spent the whole week with my family, he was on cerenia and was totally normal (lively, playful, happy). However when we got home last night and entered our house, he immediately started lick lipping/gagging and showing signs of nausea which he hadn't done all week. Maybe just remembering he kept getting sick here?

I just want him to feel better. He's spent so much of his little life sick (and I spend so much of mine worrying about him).

EDIT: His test for addisons and atypical addisons came back negative.
When they did the x-rays did anyone look at his esophagus? I had a boy with Megaesophagus. Megaesophagus will show up on x-rays as a dilation of the esophagus. It takes an experienced vet to look for it. He would lip lick, gag, cough. He wouldn't eat or drink water. He would throw up entire meals 8 hours after eating them. Dogs with ME can eat canned food, or food that is blended to be milkshake consistency, better then kibble. They can't drink water without a risk of vomiting and aspiration. For him I put the water in his food. I also elevated food and water bowls so that he was eating and drinking at the proper angle. He was given metoclopramide 10 mg 3 times a day before meals. He was fed blended kibble three times a day, smaller more frequent meals are better. He did very well once we figured out exactly what worked for him. He also took prilosec 20 mg twice a day and a pepcid ac twice a day.

I have been hesitant to respond to this thread, but it does sound like ME could be relevant. I do want to say that my boy was 8 when diagnosed with ME. He lived a good quality of life for many years after the diagnosis. It is a lot of work to manage, but his quality of life was very good until the end. Google and facebook groups will scare you to death if you look into ME, but some of the information is very helpful. Just remember that I had a dog that lived a great life for many years with it and it is not the reason we ultimately lost him. If ME was his only problem I could have managed it forever once I had the routine down and the right meds. The meds were also not expensive.

I'm not going to go into a ton of detail because this could be irrelevant, but if you find out it's ME please feel free to message me. I would be glad to share what I learned. (boy did I learn)
 

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Yes, he was. He didn’t actually throw up though – just lick lipping, head bobbing, gagging. Also, we were in the car like 10 hours so perhaps that was a factor.
Was he doing it in the car? Motion sickness generally eases when you get out of the moving vehicle. If it only started when he got into the house, I'd be less inclined to think it was car sickness.

The fact that he was exhibiting the behaviour when you got home but didn't vomit (presumably because of the cerenia) is making me wonder if there is something that is triggering it at your house. Could there be mold lurking anywhere? Or do you use any chemicals on your lawn? Is there a reason he would be nervous there? Does he get yelled at? Is there another pet that bullies him or makes him nervous? Is there a baby in your home whose cries might upset him? (I'm truly grasping at anything). Anything at all you can think of? Does it happen at certain times of the day?
 
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