Adopting a Dog with Special Needs
We officially adopted Bowie on November 24, 2016. We knew from the moment we saw her that she belonged with us. Her foster mom gave us all the gruesome details of her early life. Abandoned by her owner(s), left to survive on the streets, pregnant at a young age, and heart worm positive. Her foster mom urged us to keep her on the slow kill method, and we did. We knew that adopting a dog with special needs would not be easy, but we were ready for it. We had a long road ahead of us!
Within the first few weeks of having her she had finally started to warm up to the idea of us being her parents. By the time 2017 rolled around she had come to accept us as her family and things got better and better as the days passed by. Fast forward to May when Bowie and I were out for our morning walk. Bowie suddenly began to shake as she was walking. She would have to sit down and regain composure but would start to convulse upon walking once again. I immediately turned around and rushed her home. I found the closest emergency clinic to the house and within the hour she was diagnosed with an infection, given antibiotics, and was told to rest.
A week later when she was able to move around again, we hesitantly took her out for another walk. She seemed better but still not her usual energetic self. Over the next month we ended up taking her to our [old] vet several times begging him to do something. She had lost her appetite, her stomach was getting upset, she would pick a spot to lay down on the floor and not move for hours. We are a bit [over]obsessed with Bowie and Josh and I knew deep in our hearts that something was seriously wrong. He kept passing it off as an infection, giving her more antibiotics and medicine to ease her stomach. She continued to lose weight. Her once soft fur coat had turned coarse and wiry. Her eyes had completely lost their sparkle.
Josh had finally had enough. He called up the vet and demanded her paperwork, we were taking her elsewhere. Luckily, a different vet at the same facility begged us to take a look at Bowie’s chart. This new vet had a hunch that Bowie had Addison’s disease. Um, WHAT?! I had heard of this disease in human’s but never in dogs. We took Bowie in to see the new vet the following morning and by that afternoon Bowie had been diagnosed with Addison’s disease. Addison’s is an adrenal disorder that prevents humans, and dogs, from creating the necessary hormones they need to survive. Finally, we had an answer!
Treating the Addison’s
Bowie would now have to take a steroid pill every day and receive an injection every 25 days. It was an expensive answer, but an answer that we accepted and were willing to take on. We were able to rest easy that night knowing that we had the answer and a solution. When the next day rolled around, however, we noticed she was wheezing and coughing. I took her in to the vet once again and they did an x-ray. The results left me in tears. On top of the Addison’s, Bowie also had megaesophagus. Her esophagus had basically stopped working. When that happened, all of the food we thought she was eating over the past couple weeks was actually just sitting in her esophagus, stretching it out. She would have to eat or drink water ONLY when she was in a vertical position. She would also have to stay in that vertical position for 30 minutes after eating so that gravity could work the food down. We had truly adopted a dog with special needs.
Treating the Megaesophagus
Our morning and evening routine quickly turned into a 3 hour ordeal in order to treat both the Addison’s and the ME. All of her food had to be blended up with water and fed to her like a shake. Josh built her a chair that would make her have to stand up on her back legs in order to eat or drink. She was obviously not very fond of this, but quickly realized she had to get in it to eat. And Bowie LOVES to eat! I’m not going to lie, the first 2 weeks of this new routine was pretty rough. Not only did it take hours to feed her, but we had to be sooooo careful that the food moved down. If any of it sits in the esophagus she could cough and have it aspirate into her lungs. She had aspirated on her food the day she had been diagnosed with Addison’s, that’s why she had started wheezing. Aspiration can be very dangerous; causing infections and even death if left untreated. Neither Josh nor I were sleeping very well and her routine was exhausting.
Thankfully we stuck with it and after a few weeks we started to see some improvement. Her energy, appetite, and overall sparkle started to come back! She had also gotten so used to using the chair that she started getting in to it herself! The vet had told us when she was diagnosed with ME that there was a possibility it was caused by the untreated Addison’s and could eventually go away. We were hopeful, but not holding our breath. Sure enough after a couple months of treating both the Addisons and ME, her megaesophagus had gone away! I cried again, but this time tears of joy!
A Happy Ending
Josh and I took Bowie to the vet earlier this week for her annual checkup. She was updated on her shots, had blood drawn, and had a heart worm retest. We honored the foster mom’s wishes and did the slow kill method which takes about a year. Although it’s less harmful than the fast kill method (it kills off the worms more slowly), it means that the heart worms could have been doing damage to her heart until all of them were gone. Either option is risky but we felt pretty confident in keeping her on the slow kill track.
I am happy to announce that Bowie’s test came back negative and she is officially heart worm free! Her Addison’s is manageable and under control. The vet gave her a clean bill of health and once again ya girl needs some tissues! I can’t express how happy I am that she is happy AND healthy. All Josh and I wanted was to give her a great life and I finally feel like she’s living it. Adopting a dog with special needs is expensive and time consuming, but completely rewarding. I can hardly remember what life was like before her and I don’t want it any other way!
Thank you for taking the time to read this and please reach out if you have any questions!