This is Bourbon, our 5-year-old working Cocker Spaniel, aptly named after the chocolate biscuit! Bourbon is a trained gundog (when she feels like it!) but is a pet first and foremost, and is completely spoilt. She is inseparable from our other cocker spaniel, Rizzo, and there is always double trouble with the two of them.

In October 2015, Bourbon suddenly became nervous on a walk and by the time she was home, she was drooling uncontrollably and coughing. We thought she might have kennel cough so kept an eye on her over the weekend but weren't overly concerned. On the Monday morning, the vet suggested she might have swallowed something and would need to be operated on to remove the object. We weren't convinced; she isn't the kind of dog to eat something that isn't food. Bourbon became progressively worse, not being able to hold food or water down, and was admitted to the vets on the Tuesday morning. She was put on a drip, and given antibiotics and painkillers. X-rays came back clear, bloods came back clear and an endoscopy of her throat only found irritation. All the vets were stumped.

By Friday, Bourbon had managed to eat and drink and could come home. The vets put it down to an infection, but the illness had resulted in a condition called Megaesophagus (Mega E). This occurs when the oesophagus loses its muscle tone and can't push the food into the stomach. Over the next few months, we made changes such as feeding Bourbon stood up and changing her lead so it didn't put pressure on her throat. She progressively got better and by Christmas, was almost back to normal.

However, in April, the coughing returned and Bourbon started to regurgitate water. We went to see a different vet, who suggested testing for some conditions which cause Mega E, which included Adison's disease and myasthenia gravis. We Googled these conditions and kept coming back to the symptoms of MG, so many of which, fit Bourbon's condition back in October. The most common presentation of MG in dogs is coughing and regurgitation, as it is often localised to the oesophagus at first. It is also most common for dogs to first experience symptoms around age 4.

Unsurprisingly, the test results came back positive for MG, and for the associated antibodies. We are lucky to have such a supportive vet, who has not only provided us with a long awaited diagnosis, but has also researched treatment and encouraged us to find a way of managing Bourbon's condition to give her the best life possible.

Bourbon now takes Mestinon, and whilst we will still need to tinker with the dosage a little, she is very stable. Aspiration pneumonia is very common in dogs with MG due to the regurgitation so we watch for any signs so that we can catch it in the early stages. Mega E can also worse, if the oesophagus isn't working properly, and so Bourbon is fed on her hind legs and held upright after meals. Bourbon is largely able to lead a normal life though, loving long walks and swimming. After some very worrying times, it is a strange relief to finally have a diagnosis and has given us some hope that we will enjoy a few more shooting seasons with our faithful spaniel getting to do what she loves.

Sarah Walker