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Max's story

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Max was a Golden Retriever puppy who had MPS II and sadly passed away when he was seven months old. Courtney, his owner, tells the story of his diagnosis and how she wants to raise awareness of MPS and the effect it can have.

For most families, getting a dog is a happy point in their lives. However, this wasn’t the case for the Brown family. They had no idea that their world was about to turn upside down when one morning in April, their puppy Max, woke up and was a bit stiff. They thought he’d been lying the wrong way so took him to the vets who told them that he’d had too much exercise.

However, it kept on happening and so they went back to the vets. Eventually, they changed vets because they weren’t happy with the way they handled the situation.

The new vets did x-rays on hips and elbows and found no major issues apart from a little bit of fluid in the joints but this wasn’t a cause for concern. Upon further inspection, they found a small tumour on his joints which was quickly removed.

Searching for answers

Courtney had her concerns when they bought Max. She says: “His eyes didn’t look right when we got him”. When he went for his health check, his eyes were fine, but sometimes they would roll into the back of his head which caused anxiety amongst the family. Other symptoms that Max had were a misshapen skull, teeth growing in awkward angles and his behaviour was unlike other puppies.

When they realised something wasn’t right, the family were concerned about Max’s quality of life because he was still so young. More tests were run and came back fine. “We felt like we were going insane as we knew something was wrong, we just didn’t know what,” says Courtney. However, due to his age, Max couldn’t receive a proper diagnosis until he was six months old.

By this point, Max had started to deteriorate and didn’t have the energy to play or move around, despite being almost seven months old. According to his family, he looked like a 14-year-old dog with arthritis. It was only when they saw a neurologist and Max had a brain scan, did they hear the word MPS. The neurologist was unsure as they had never seen this in an animal.

No one could help them until they went to Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust who ran a urine test and sent it off to the US to test for enzymes. It was only then that they learnt of another dog with MPS in Pennsylvania.


It took two weeks for Max to receive the diagnosis of MPS, but for the Browns, those were the longest two weeks of their lives.

When the tests came back, it was confirmed that Max did have MPS and was the first puppy in the UK to be diagnosed with MPS II (Hunters syndrome). Unfortunately, his condition was a lot worse than the dog in the US and it was too far gone. To qualify for ERT treatment, he needed to be a year old and he wasn’t going to make it.

It was then that they reached out to the MPS Society for some understanding of MPS and the devastating effects that come with it.

They had a hard choice ahead of them, but they knew he was going to get a lot worse, so they decided to put him to sleep. Their son was devastated as Max never got to celebrate his first birthday or Christmas. Just before he passed, they celebrated an early birthday and took him to the beach.

Raising awareness

“I just want to save everyone a world of heartache and raise awareness as it’s like I’ve lost a child,” says Courtney. However, they are glad to have known Max for the short time that they did. Max’s body will be donated for research and the family want to raise awareness and money to help people affected by the condition – whether that’s dog owners or parents.

She is desperate to find the owners of the puppies from Max’s litter to make them aware that this could happen to them. Despite having an article in the Scottish Sun and posting on every Facebook group and website she can think of; she hasn’t had any luck so far.

If you know someone who might have a puppy from the same litter as Max, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Creating a tribute

If you’ve had a loved one who has passed away from MPS, Fabry or a related disease, you can create an online tribute fund to celebrate their life and share it with others. Please head to our Memory page for more information.

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