Dog With Multiple Symptoms, No Diagnosis

by Lisa
(Bay Area, CA, USA)

For 5 months our just turned 12 year old Australian Shepherd has been ill. She started with an occasional hack, head shaking, ear scratching and was fairly lethargic. She smelled strongly, but we can't say that it was a yeasty odor, either.

Then she started being confused, at the same time we were treating her ears with Animax (from the vet), and stopped hearing as well. Her fur started to fall out around her muzzle, and then it spread over her body. She's not furless, but has lost about 60% of her coat. No pustules, scabs or soars.

She has started shivering. I never thought I'd put a sweater on a dog, but she actually needs it. Her tears oxidize and turn a reddish color, and she looks very sad. We've tested her blood, changed her diet to an hypoallergenic one, she's had x-rays, an ultrasound, skin scrapings, and everything comes up negative. No Addison's Disease, either.

The vet is dumbfounded. He's the second one we've been to - both of whom are great vets. The dog's ears have brownish/black gunk in them, hard to get rid of. We've treated her with Clavamox, in the beginning, and just finished five weeks of Cephalexin. Weary of antibiotics while having a possible yeast infection, we didn't feel that we had much of a choice. While on Cephalexin her reddish tear lines got better, but are returning now that we've stopped. We are waiting for results from a second blood test for hyperthyroidism. She's not presenting with classic symptoms for it, but the radiologist has suggested it.

We had put Frontline Plus on her about two - three days before the itching began - the fleas had been pretty bad back in October. She's not the dog she was and we want
to figure this out so we can help her. We love her dearly. If it's her time to go, I can live with that, but not knowing what's ailing her makes it harder.

We will take her to a specialist should the hyperthyroid test comes back negative, which I think it will. Just wish we knew - she's a loving, sweet, entertaining, (once very beautiful), happy dog and has had a charmed life. We should all have it so good..

thanks, folks.. Lisa


Suggestions from our Vet when a dog has multiple symptoms and no diagnosis

Hi Lisa,

Your poor dog! It sounds like you all have really been through a lot these last few months. Your vets have done a very thorough work up. I think hypothyroidism (not hyperthyroidism) is a possibility, so the first thing you should do is wait for those results to come in. If your dog is clearly hypothyroid (I hate to say that sometimes diagnosing this disease can get a little complicated as well), then putting her on a thyroid supplement should make a world of difference.

If she is not hypothyroid, I think the next logical step either would be for one of your vets to perform a few skin biopsies and send the samples to a pathologist that specializes in skin diseases or for you to make an appointment with a veterinary dermatologist.

Has anyone suggested allergy testing to you? The dermatologist would be a great resource for this and for any other advanced diagnostic testing that your dog might need.

Don’t give up on your Aussie yet. There is still a good chance that someone will be able to figure out what is going on and come up with a treatment plan to manage it.

Good luck!

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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Jun 03, 2011
thank you, Jennifer
by: Lisa goodman

Jennifer, thanks for your thoughtful suggestions. Indeed, we did take Raina to a dermatologic specialist. If we'd gone sooner we might've been able to fight the disease better, but now we'll have to see. Once the glands die (Sebaceous Atenitis), they don't come back and she'll be prone to infections.. She's also shaky when she stands (not when walking) which every doc has said is separate from the SA. It's as if all her issues came on at once last Autumn, a bombardment. She was the most rambunctious Aussie - she went from looking and acting like a pup to a very old looking 12 year old. So strange. I just don't want her to suffer for long. Thanks again, Lisa

Jun 03, 2011
We finally got a diagnosis..
by: Lisa goodman

Raina was checked for Hypothyroidism, she was x-rayed, had an ultrasound, blood tests, etc. Finally, we were sent to a specialist who recommended a dermatologic specialist. In five minutes, he new what it was: Sebaceous Atenitis. A rare auto-immune disease. It attacks and kills the sebaceous glands. She's been put on Cyclosporin and is now off the antibiotic. There's been some improvement, but not dramatic. Cyclosporin in very expensive and a heavy drug, though she's tolerating it. Her ear infection has returned.. She's a bit of a mess and is still not very happy. We're still bathing her once a week when she begins to smell and gets itchy. It definitely helps. I have no idea if she'll recover. Cyclosporin can activate the glands to kick in if they're not already dead. They were at the site of of her skin biopsy, but we're hoping she's still got some live ones elsewhere, where her fur is still somewhat intact. Fingers are crossed.

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