My Cushy Pooch

Her name was Poppy – my first ever pooch whom guided me from my pre-Mexican bandit facial hair days, through to a completely new era in my life, as she bid me her final farewell during my first week of Edinburgh University.  Half German Shepherd – Half Total Fluffpot, my fondest memories of her include her attempt to bite a douchey fella who walked in that douchey way whilst giving some douchey agro to my Dad on a walk… and her devout company throughout that 5 set Wimbledon Epic between Federer and Nadal (I think she wanted the tennis balls…..). A wonderful dog, with a golden mane, golden heart..and an exquisite talent for delicately unwrapping chocolate bars from underneath the Christmas tree (True story!).

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“She has Cushing’s Disease” came the weighted words of the Dog Doctor, or Vet if you will, towards her final days of duty as our ultimate guard dog. Poppy had been through a few veterinary scraps throughout her time with us…but her old age and progression of the condition would not allow us to see her through this one. The time to rest had come.

Cushing’s syndrome itself is the name given to the signs and symptoms attributed to prolonged and inappropriate exposure to elevated glucocorticoids such as the stress hormone – Cortisol. Our dear Pops was believed to have had a corticotroph adenoma, which results in excessive levels of secreted Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and stimulates, down the line, the adrenal cortex, which is embedded in endocrine glands situated at the top of our kidneys, to produce ridiculously high levels of cortisol.

The long term results of exposure to this stress hormone are Weight gain & Obesity, high blood sugar levels (Hyperglycaemia) and loss of skeletal muscle mass. We humans get it too! Additional things more obvious in homo sapiens include the development of ‘buffalo hump’ – fat depots over the thoracocervical spine (about mid-way down on the back) – as well as bright red-purple striae (stripes/bands/lines) over 1 cm in width, around the abdomen. Given that the hyperglycaemia persists and continually stimulates the secretion of that all important hormone insulin from the pancreas to help control blood sugar levels, you might describe this aspect of the condition as a type of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. However, the rise in insulin levels do not effectively reduce the blood sugar levels because the skeletal muscle and fatty (adipose) tissues don’t take up the glucose, which is in higher availability in the blood, as much as they should.

Dear ol’ Pops passed the Dexamethasone suppression test, by showing no suppression of ACTH and cortisol secretion upon administration of external, supraphysiological doses of glucocorticoids….thus confirming her condition. Whilst the removal of the adrenal adenomas would have fixed the high cortisol level issue, her overall condition and age hindered the certainty of cure over further risk.

At least a few times a month, she’ll trot into my dreams, roll onto her back and beg for a tummy tickle though! Silly Pops…. Happy Christmas and New Years in doggy heaven…which I imagine to be some sort of wood with trees that grow Bonios.

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