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. nicola

    i wish you all the luck dealing with your diabetic dog, we had boris our beautiful cat who was diagnosed when he was 12 years old and had insulin injections twice daily until he died nearly a year ago aged 18. he never mined his injections and would come and remind me when it was due he would even come and wake me by gently patting my eyelids if i ever overslept! once we got the dose right and he settled into his routine we never had any fits and his body condition returned to normal. even though he is now gone i still sometimes think its time for his jab!!

  2. Really interesting to read all the comments on this subject – I’m sure they gave you lots of comfort. x

  3. I’m sure you and Danny will be able to manage the Contessa’s condition very well. It seems frightening at first but is certainly manageable; now that she’s been diagnosed you should see an improvement in her quite quickly. Wishing you all well. 🙂

  4. danast

    Fiona, I am sure and Danny will cope with this and give the Contessa all the help she needs. She is a very lucky little dog to have such people as you two looking after her and I am sure you will all soon get into the routine which will enhance and indeed save her future. Lots of love to you and Danny and all the minpins.

  5. As others have said the injections are okay. The needles are really small and our old dog (who died in March) didn’t seem to mind them, especially if breakfast followed!

  6. Michelle in NZ

    While you’re moving into new territory with the Contessa’s health, it must be a relief to know just what the condition is that she has. And I’m relieved for you both that she was diagnosed so quickly. With the diabetes under control your lass will soon be back to her usual grand self. Sending care and huggles to you all,

    Michelle xxx and Zebbycat purrrrumbles(from under his quilt)

  7. I would like to give you some hope. Our dog “Mister” had been diagnosed with diabetes due to “Cushing” disease in 2001. His further life expectancy was only for another two years. Our wonderdog made it, however until the year 2008 when he died at the age of 17(!)after a long and wonderful life. Giving the shots is easy, and even the dog doesn’t mind after the first couple of times. Ask your vet if it’s o.k. to smear your finger with a little bit (just a coating, mind you)of liver sausage to let your dog lick it after receiving the shot of insulin. That way your dog will even look forward to the shot! The blood glucose level can be managed well with monitoring. Our vet recommended always having some honey on hand to rub into the gums of our dog should he crash from low sugar. Luckily this was only necessary during the last weeks of his life. It did cost a lot of money over the years, but I would do it all over again, and over, and over, and over …… Chin up, you can do it!

  8. My Rufus was not diabetic, but had polyarthritis from Lupus, from a tick bite, and had a low, chronic pneumonia, both of which were managed with meds twice a day. He still appeared to enjoy life, barking at the UPS man, and liking to lie out on the deck and sniff the air or sleep in the sun. When he had to be encouraged to eat breakfast or dinner, and was only moving from his bed to the rug, to the slate, to his bed, and never asked to go outside anymore we knew his quality of life was waning. We made The Decision, which turned out to be timely and correct; his kidneys were failing. So- being so on top of the Contessa’s life, you will know when she’s ready. You should also know that once she’s on the other side, she’ll be waiting for you as well.

  9. Don’t worry too much about the injections they are much smaller needles than you will expect as they only have to go to just under the skin. After the first couple she ( and you) won’t bat an eyelid. Being a borderline diabetic and on metformin for the last 10 yrs and having an uncle who was on jabs and a grandma hypo’s are common in my family ( we’re not all just a bit ga-ga honest.. its the low blood sugar).
    I’m not sure how natural remedies work with dogs, but chromium is a good natural way to help level out blood sugar and also if she will eat it in her food onion is good for you too if you suffer from highs and lows. Its good that you noticed and are doing something now as watching an animal or human go into a diabetic fit is very frightening if you don’t know what is happening, and what to do it can be life threatening. Good luck and I’m just glad its something treatable x

  10. Welcome to the world of diabetic dogs. My beastie has been diabetic for over 7 years. The first 5 years were very hard as it was very difficult to get his glucose under control. But I found a new vet who was very dedicated to doing her best by him and he has been well regulated for the past two years. Unfortunately, diabetes in dogs can make them age faster than healthy dogs and they are also slow to heal if they get injured or sick. I didn’t have pet insurance and the cost of twice daily injections and all the special foods and meds have taken quite the toll on my budget. However, I would do it all again for my sweet boy. If I can help with advise or anything please feel free to email me. I’ve had lots of experience! 🙂

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