Meet Bo the fifteen year old Boxer, who has been visiting Vetwest for many years. About twelve months ago Bo came into Vetwest Clarkson because he thought he would try some of the dynamic lifter from the garden. This had given him a bad stomach upset with vomiting and diarrhoea. As well as receiving appropriate treatment for his gastro symptoms, a blood test was run to check Bo’s general health and well-being. The results showed an elevation in two of Bo’s liver enzymes which suggested a disease was damaging his liver without any symptoms being evident!

It was important for Bo’s welfare that we find out what could be causing the elevated liver enzymes. There were many possibilities. Could it be an infection? Could it be a toxin? Could it be excess hormones? Or could it even be a tumour?

We wanted to find the diagnosis as quickly as possible and we felt the test that would give us the most information was an abdominal ultrasound. In Perth, we are fortunate to have access to specialists in veterinary ultrasonography so we arranged referral to one of these experts. The ultrasound revealed that Bo’s liver and the adrenal glands which produce a number of hormones were also enlarged. This was a vital piece of the puzzle for us.

What we were now suspecting was overactive adrenal glands, a condition known as Cushings disease (Hyperadrenocorticism). A follow up blood test was run which checked specifically for this condition, and it confirmed our suspicions. We were now able to help Bo because the blood tests were telling us that the adrenal glands were producing too much of a hormone called cortisol, and it was this excess hormone that was increasing the liver enzymes.

Cushings disease will often quietly affect the body systems for a long time, causing damage but without many nasty symptoms until it is too late. Some of the more common symptoms are increases in thirst, appetite, urinating, panting and waist-line. If left untreated the prognosis is poor and can lead to blood clots, urinary and skin infections, high blood pressure, kidney damage, and even seizures.

Fortunately our veterinarians were aware of a new treatment being used in Europe but not commercially available in Australia at that time. It has fewer side effects and is easier to use than the old treatment. We wrote a prescription for a compounding chemist and were able to source this drug in a form suitable for Bo.

Cushings disease is not easy to control but after several months and the benefits of doing the required follow-up blood tests we have now stabilised Bo’s condition, and his owners tell us Bo seems brighter and more alert. We will be checking in regularly with Bo to ensure that he continues to have a long and healthy life.

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