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

1289 Views 19 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Sweet Girl
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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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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