Onawa’s Zagreb Addison’s Disease

We arrived in Zadar in June 2019, Onawa was tired and lethargic the first two days. I thought it might be overheating from the difference of temperature between Tara, Bosnia and the Croatian coast. I took her on a few walks, but she wasn’t herself. On the third day of being in Zadar she stopped eating and refused to drink water. I took her to the vet, everything seemed ok, but the vet suggested we return the next day for more blood tests. Onawa refused to eat, or drink, anything she did have was thrown up almost instantly.

Once we got to the animal hospital they had her blood tested and put her on IV, after waiting a couple hours the vet came and told us that she had acute kidney failure. He insisted that we go to Zagreb right away, to the university veterinary hospital. We rushed home in an Uber while I arranged with the Uber driver to take us to Zagreb. Fiorella grabbed some clothes in a bag for us and our computers then met me at the car with Onawa.

During the drive I told my friend in Belgrade what was going on. She’s from Zagreb and knows many people. She checked with veterinarians to find out who was in charge that day. She sent me details of one of the university veterinarians, I called the veterinarian, but she was on vacation, however, she gave me information where to go and who to see at the university hospital. She gave me the details of the veterinarian on staff whom I asked for when we reached Zagreb. The surgery department was on call that night so we rushed in and asked for the name given to us. A very handsome young veterinarian came out to greet us. He ordered three students to attend to Onawa with IV and started testing for tick diseases and checked her blood. He told me that he would keep an eye on her all night and instructed us to return at nine in the morning then to take her to the internal medicine department for more tests. Fiorella and I headed to the DoubleTree to sleep for the night.

The next morning, we came back to the university hospital. I was so scared, hoping she made it through the night. She was ok! Yay! I paid the bill for the overnight, an equivalent to $48.00 USD then went next door to the internal medicine department. They were expecting us so we didn’t have to wait long. An older veterinarian ushered us into a room with his student at his hip. I was reading the book Peak Performance at the time. I whispered to Fiorella that it was good we had a veterinarian who’s also a teacher because according to the book people who teach and work on what they teach will retain their knowledge better than typical people who only practice, but not teach. Then he proved me wrong!

He asked where we were and what we have been doing. I told him about our Boljevac trip and our drive through Bosnia. He immediately started ranting and insisting it was Leptospirosis and that she might die. He took blood from her neck which freaked her out, but she complied. I was telling her it was ok. He then said he doesn’t know, maybe not, 50/50, she might die he said. I was freaking out! He went on about some dog named Max who died from Leptospirosis, his assistant could tell his mentor’s rant was emotionally agitating me, but the old man kept going. He insisted I go to infectious disease department on the other side of the building with the blood he extracted.

In the infectious disease department they had her blood tested for the liver and kidneys and said she needed an X-ray to determine if he could flush the kidneys to revitalize them. The Leptospirosis test would take another three days for the results, but she was to be kept in quarantine until they knew for sure. We did the X-ray, then paid a bill equivalent of $30.00 before returning Onawa to the infectious disease department where they insisted she would be fine, but we would have to leave her there. Fiorella and I went back to the DoubleTree to get some work done and rest.


We only had two days booked at DoubleTree because a big conference was going to fill the rooms and we didn’t book in advance due to the last-minute trip. We went on Booking.com and found Mika Apartments. It was a bit far from the animal hospital so we needed to take Ubers there daily, but we were only going once per day. That’s all we were allowed to visit.

Finally, that Thursday when I called to check on her I was told that her test results show that the Leptospirosis was only a tiny portion indicating it was likely from her 2017 vaccination. We were finally able to take her home. We excitedly left the apartment and headed to pick her up. The veterinarians at infectious disease were terrific! We really liked them. They handed her over, we hopped into an Uber and headed home to Zadar.

We were only in Zadar a few hours when Onawa stopped wanting to drink. I fed her and she puked again, the way she was before. I didn’t take her to the vet because I thought she was just being a brat and didn’t want to eat the dog food so I made her fish. She ate it, but she puked it up. Onawa got worse. I took her to the veterinarian and they didn’t understand of course. Her electrolytes were messing up again, potassium was going too high.

The next day we suffered through another day thinking I don’t know what I was thinking, I just know that I wasn’t being rational. I didn’t take her back to the vet, we went all day and then when I went to bed she was in bad shape. She wouldn’t let me sleep, every time I dozed off she kicked me and glared at me with big eyes in terror. I called the emergency number for the vet all night, nothing, not till eight am. I took her in, they said kidney failure again, I got an Uber and Onawa with some more clothes and stuff this time and left.

She was immediately admitted into the infectious disease department and I went to sleep in the DoubleTree that day and night. Three days of two blood tests a day trying to determine the problem and no one knew. On the third day my favorite veterinarian said that they did a test for Addison’s Disease at the instruction of one of the vets in internal medicine. I was told it would take five days to get the results and if it’s that then I’ll need to be there for longer. I booked five nights in a Booking.com apartment and waited.

I was able to see her once a day for those days, then on the last day there I was able to take her home. Before picking her up I went to the pet shop to look for a dog stroller. I always saw old ladies pushing their dogs around in one and thought it was great for her to get around and avoid transportation. I was able to buy the last one and the lovely woman who worked at the Pet Center put it together for me.

When I got to infectious disease that day they didn’t have the results yet, but after a week on the IV she was eating and drinking again. I arranged to take her with me, but was going to have to take her to the vet every morning before her breakfast to get her electrolytes tested. I booked a week more, this time at the Hilton Canopy.

Onawa and I made the walk every morning down the street. I pushed her little cuteness in the red stroller down the hot streets to the vet around nine every morning. She loved it! She loved the ride and the fresh air. Once there they took her blood and put her on IV for an hour. It was a three-hour ordeal every morning, but she was doing fine and didn’t mind being poked with needles every day. Finally, one morning we went in and the vet said it’s Addison’s Disease. He arranged everything for us to go to internal medicine department to meet with our new veterinarian Filip. I was terrified. Everything I read about Addison’s sounded scary. I didn’t know what the treatment would involve.

We went to Internal Medicine and were seen right away by a really young veterinarian, Filip. He said he was the one who thought to test her for Addison’s and that he had another patient with the disease. He was familiar with a new treatment for it from the UK and instructed me to order the medicine when we got back to our veterinarian in Zadar. He vaccinated her with what he had and told me she wouldn’t need to come in for blood tests anymore, but that on July 25th we would have to return for a month. He gave me a prescription for steroid and the drug Zycortal which costs about $250.00 USD. Finally, we were able to get back to Zadar. We took a Blah Blah Car back to Zadar. This time Onawa was eating and healthy. In only a matter of days it’s like she was never sick.

My mom had already started all the research on Addison’s Disease. I had read a few bloggers and their experience. A recurring theme was no processed food. I’ve cooked for my dogs for years, since always really. It’s only since I started traveling full time with Onawa that I started buying dog food. When we are staying in hotels I can’t cook for her and I don’t trust kitchens to not give the dog old stuff so I bought the best organic (bio), grain free dog food I could find. I decided I would use my knowledge of the Gerson Therapy diet. The food is cooked very low and slow. I started with use only meat to decrease digestion time. Hoping for quicker healing. I also made bone broth daily.

I visited my local butcher and had him mincemeat of liver, kidney, heart and breast meat from lamb, chicken and beef. He thought I was crazy for doing all this for the dog, but I wasn’t concerned. I bought chicken carcasses and made broth for hours. Onawa didn’t want to drink water still so I made chicken broth and called it chicken juice. We took it everywhere we went and she drank it with delight. After all the poking, prodding and antibiotics I wanted to be sure her little belly was healing.

She was doing ok, but her stomach was still very stiff from the steroids. I started including vegetables to her slowly cooked meats and saw an improvement in her poops and gas. I also included probiotics from the local veterinarian. I played with a few recipes for her. Finally, July 25th came and we moved to Zagreb. I booked a month with the company who owns Milka Apartments, but it was in a different part of town, then move to an Airbnb closer to Lake Jarun. Onawa and I took the tram every day to the university animal hospital for her blood test. Filip would check the electrolytes to make sure they weren’t changing. On the forty fifth day he called me back to get her vaccination. She now has her vaccination planned every thirty-five days. Finally, Onawa was going to be ok and on a regime that didn’t include blood being taken daily.

She had her third vaccine on September 17th and will get the next one on the 17th of October. We will be checking her blood from Belgrade and sending the results to Filip in Zagreb on the 16th of October. We were giving ¼ of a steroid pill once a day, I used my judgement and advice from Filip to reduce it to every other day. When I see the vet in Belgrade next week I’ll be asking if we can reduce the steroid to once every three days. Her coat was stringy and weird from the steroid, now that it’s been one month on every other day her coat is improving.

I’m thinking of writing about our experience of Addison’s Disease. Filip is quite familiar with it, he believes the disease is becoming more prevalent. He claims that young female dogs are most at risk. If you, or someone you know has a young female please keep an eye out for the signs of vomiting from water, or food and lethargy. There are other signs, one being hair loss.