Misdiagnosis in a Boxer: Duke’s Missed Diagnosis. What Would You Do If It Was Your Dog?

Sometimes, a missed diagnosis can come at the ultimate price. Would Duke be still alive if he was diagnosed early?

If your dog is not improving with treatment, either the treatment or even the diagnosis might be erroneous. Don’t wait to seek answers. Insist that your veterinarian gives you an outline of your dog’s treatment response. Don’t ever walk out of your veterinarian’s office without having all the information you need—grab your free Veterinary Visit Checklists.

Misdiagnosis in a Boxer: Duke's Missed Diagnosis. What Would You Do If It Was Your Dog?

Duke’s story

Here is the stumbling block with diagnosing—the obvious problem might not be the one you’re looking for. How would you figure out that the condition your veterinarian identified is not what is causing your dog’s symptoms?

Duke was 7-year-old Boxer. He was a happy, active dog, enjoying life to its fullest. Until he wasn’t.

Duke’s symptoms included:

  • lethargy
  • weight loss
  • hind end lameness
  • back pain

The problem with most symptoms is their ambiguity. Just about any illness can come with lethargy or weight loss. Back pain and lameness are a little bit more specific but do they always mean a musculoskeletal problem?

The diagnosis

The veterinarian examined Duke, ran some labs and took x-rays. He found problems with Duke’s spine and diagnosed him with spondylosis.

Spondylosis is a degenerative condition which results in abnormal growth of bone tissue on the vertebrae. Even though the condition is not inflammatory, such as arthritis, it can cause pain, stiffness and restricted motion. It is particularly painful when the bone spur pinches on a nerve.

Source: petMD

Duke’s x-rays did show spondylosis in his spine. Enough pain could cause lethargy and reduced mobility could lead to muscle loss. The explanation seemed to fit the picture.

The treatment

The veterinarian prescribed treatment for spondylosis. However, it was not helping. Duke continued to lose weight. His entire body, not just his hind end, were literally becoming skin and bones. Duke was not getting better, he was getting worse.

He also started drinking enormous amounts of water.

What was happening? Why wasn’t the treatment working? The diagnosis seemed straightforward and made sense. And there was clear evidence Duke indeed did have spondylosis. Surely the condition couldn’t progress this fast and in spite of treatment?

Duke kept declining

Duke could barely get around at all and needed a lot of help. And then his urine started smelling really bad. It was stinky, dark, cloudy and foamy.

That’s when Duke’s parents decided to seek a second opinion. They could no longer believe the spondylosis could be causing all this.

Do you think spondylosis was the correct diagnosis? What would you make of Duke’s symptoms? What would you do if Duke was your dog?


Read Duke’s story to learn what was wrong with him.

Further reading:
Missed Diagnoses: What to Do When You Think Your Vet Is Missing Something

Categories: Dog health advocacy

Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

Share your thoughts