The Cottage Smallholder

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Diabetes in dogs: The Contessa has just been diagnosed with this condition


Photo: The Contessa caught out on the town

Photo: The Contessa caught out on the town

We noticed that The Contessa was suddenly pencil thin, drinking a lot, having accidents around the house and generally off colour. She was eating well and responding with delight to cuddles and massages. But the weight loss was dramatic, fast and worrying.

The Contessa is a sprightly 10 year old Min Pin. She is Danny’s secret favourite gem. And we’d both hate to lose her.

Yesterday I crept down with her into the garden at dawn and managed to get a urine sample by slipping an old saucer under her. A dip stick test at our vet’s (Swayne and Partners in Newmarket confirmed that her glucose levels were way too high – 20 instead of the normal 5 – described as ‘moderately severe’. She underwent a day of blood tests which confirmed that she has diabetes but that everything else is OK.

As we strongly suspected that she might have cancer the news was bitter sweet. Diabetes cannot be cured be it can be controlled – although it does need careful monitoring. Today she started on a special diabetic diet and early next week she will be tested again to see whether she will need daily doses of insulin as well. Sometimes a switch of diet can do the trick but from the way our vet Angela was talking I’m expecting that we will be practicing by injecting oranges next week.
“The only person who has not managed to do the daily injections was a very old lady with very shaky hands and poor eyesight. You’ll be fine, Fiona.”
“Do we have to find a vein?”
“No. Generally injections are in the scruff of the neck.”
“Will she suffer at all with this condition?”
“Not at all. If you can maintain a regular routine.”
That was a huge relief. I don’t believe in prolonging the life of a pet who is not 100% happy. Even though we’re not regular routine sort of guys we are determined to adapt.

Angela lent us a DVD and literature that we can read over the weekend. Our surgery provides training for owners of diabetic pets. From how to give an injection to recognising and dealing with a hypo attack. Having always fancied being a sort of female Doctor Kildaire finally I have the chance to help treat a pet. But it was the white jacket with the side buttons that attracted me rather than giving injections. I do know that a calm gentle approach is the way to go. Danny and I will both attend the training so that we can both look after The Contessa if one of us is away.

Angela was pleased to hear that I’m trying to build up a new business based at home as diabetic dogs need to be monitored carefully. Danny is often on back to back conference calls for hours and if I was working away from home it could jeopardise The Contessa’s health.

This makes me even more determined to make a success of my new ventures.

Once again our veterinary practice has been very kind and will deal directly with the insurance company so that we don’t have to shell out hundreds and then claim the money back. Thank goodness she is insured – the monthly payments are high but now we can reap the benefits and only pay 20% of the veterinary fees and 50% of the special diet which she will be guzzling for the rest of her life. There is a watershed regarding pet insurance in the UK. Generally after the age of nine the owner has to pay a percentage of the veterinary fees.

Our three dogs are a joy. Danny and I chose each one together. They have taught us so much about living in the present. Now it’s payback time for The Contessa.

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  1. Hi, Take heart, diabetes can be controlled relatively easily at home. Our JR terrier was diagnosed 7 years ago, we lost her this june. As you have probably found out, injections are straight forward, Suzie never once objected, (we would give her a cod liver oil capsule after each jab)I found that a blood glucose testing kit a godsend, and our vet was quiet happy for us to do two hourly tests ourselves, to save on vets fees, just used to take the results in. Regarding food, having tried Hills prescription feeds (which she hated)on the advice of our local petshop and internet reseach, Suzie did loved Burns venison and rice (have no vested interest!)and did well on it until a day and a half before she died. Diabetic dogs can have a full and wonderful life it justs needs a little more care and thought. Good luck to you and Contessa.

  2. samantha winter

    Hi Fiona
    We lived with a diabetic Bertie dog for a long time. All I can say is it was worth the effort.
    Without the jabs death is only a few hours away and Bertie had his share of scares along the way.

    He became blind and the wonderful vet gave him new lenses. He became grumpy and we loved him.

    His life long companion Vickie dog was always there unknowing of his complaints.

    They soon get used to the jab – it’s just us sentimental us that find it so difficult.

  3. Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

    Pets often get diabetes from processed food.

    Changing to home-cooked food that easily can be frozen is not an option for everyone – but can be very worthwhile.

    The main reason why pets get diabetes from processed foods (dried or canned) is that the commercial food contains gluten and sometimes even sugars – both not healthy to dogs in high doses, and even worse for cats.

    Good luck with your dog!

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D., physician (but not a vet!), author.

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