Meet Jordan. She is a 4-½ year old female spayed Shepherd mix who presented to our hospital on December 23rd, 1997, as an emergency. She had vague signs of vomiting and depression for twenty-four hours. Her physical examination revealed a fever as well as pain on oral examination.
An abdominal x-ray showed a circular foreign body in her small intestine that was initially thought to be the cause of her fever and vomiting. The foreign body passed overnight in her stool but her fever and painful mouth persisted.
On December 24th Jordan was anesthetized to check her oral cavity for any abscess or other cause to explain her pain and fever. Her oral examination revealed a slightly swollen area behind her last molar and the area was explored to establish drainage for infection.
At our hospital all surgical cases receive post anesthetic monitoring throughout the night following the procedure. Jordan’s initial recovery from general anesthesia was normal. She was alert and able to walk within a reasonable period of time. With most cases the high-risk period with anesthesia is during the procedure and the immediate recovery period. While Jordan’s initial recovery was good her monitoring continued. Later in the day she was quiet and more depressed than she should have been. It was Christmas Eve and her heart rate was becoming very slow and irregular. Chest radiographs were taken and an EKG evaluated. The EKG revealed abnormalities often seen with electrolyte imbalances. Emergency laboratory blood tests revealed a marked hyperkalemia (high blood potassium), hyponatremia (low blood sodium). Addison’s disease was suspected and rapid intravenous fluids, electrolytes and steroids were given to restore her normal blood electrolytes and stabilize her heart rate and rhythm. She was maintained in intensive care with a continuous IV infusion. She was monitored closely through the night and on Christmas Day Jordan gave us all the best possible present. Her condition was stable. Her heart rate and rhythm were normal.
Addison’s disease can manifest itself in a number of ways. One of the most serious is a patient’s lack of ability to handle stress. The body lacks its ability to produce adrenal hormones when needed. This precipitated Jordan’s crisis. For more information about Addison’s disease see our information section.
Once Jordan was stable, further laboratory testing was done to confirm her diagnosis. Jordan was started on the appropriate hormonal supplement, which she will need for the rest of her life. Jordan initially came in every week to monitor her electrolyte response to the medication. Within a month her electrolytes had normalized. She now has periodic blood monitoring every two to four months. She is doing very well and her owner reports he took her ice fishing last weekend.