Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Blonde Leading the Blind

Have you ever seen that guy at a place that sells pet food and not only does he have a shopping cart, but it is practically overflowing with pet food? Not only is it overflowing, but the food isn’t even for one type of animal? I mean come on, what is this? Do you live on a farm or are you one of those crazy hoarders with fifty pets running around in the walls? Well, all joking aside, I have been “that guy” on more times than I can count. I am the proud owner of two dogs and two cats. My two dogs, Fidget and Coby, are 13 years old and my cats, Freddy and Nancy, are bout 5 and 6. I have had the dogs since they were puppies and I came to live with cats when my husband and I first started living together. It took a while for one of our cats to get used to the dogs, she still has her little kitty bitch fits and will whack one of the dogs, but apart from that, we are one big happy family.

Fidget on my skull bed, Coby and Nancy, Freddy and Nancy, Coby

My biggest concern has always been the dogs, and not just because I’ve had them since they were pups. Now that my dogs are getting up there in age, I start to worry more. The walks can’t be as long and the steps aren’t easy as they used to be, but none the less, they are doing fine. Or at least they were until this past January. This winter, I noticed that Fidget had dropped a significant amount of weight. He wouldn’t go up and down the stairs anymore and he was having accidents in the house. He was still eating regularly, but his thirst for water went up significantly. The next thing I noticed was his eyes were now cloudy. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize this dogs health was going down hill fast. He appeared to be blind and had something else wrong that we weren’t 100% sure of just yet. So, like any responsible pet owners, we took our sick critter to the vet.

Signs of Dog Diabetes from www.hillspet.com 

The vet asked us all of the standard questions to figure out what was wrong with our dog. We told the doctor everything we had noticed. She confirmed that our dog was blind from cataracts, which we had already guessed. When we told her about the weight loss, thirst, and accidents she told us that it sounded like our dog was diabetic. She wanted to do a blood test to confirm this, so I got to watch three people hold my 56 pound mutt to get a blood sample. Let me tell you, this sucked. Not only is my dog not a huge fan of the vet, but now the poor blind dog can’t even see what’s comin! Within 24 hours we got the results from the blood test and they came back positive for diabetes. The next visit sucked.

Me (with a tan for once) and Fidget before cataracs and diabetes

When we returned to the vet, we were told what new habits we had to get into now that we have a diabetic dog. The first thing they told us was to change his diet. He needed high protein/low fat dog food twice a day. To top that off, he would now need a shot of insulin to follow meals. We were told to feed the dog twice a day as close to 12 hours apart as possible. We were starting with a small dose of insulin to see how that goes and that in order to give it to him, we needed to make sure he had at least 3 bites of food. No big deal right… oh wait. You mean I have to give the old, blind dog the injection. Awesome… NOT! To make matters more nerve racking, they vet had my husband and I practice on Fidget. In the office. With water. And two other vet assistants watching. I am sorry for all of those times I was nervous for having to give a speech in class, this tops all of those minor anxiety attacks. I decided to go first, especially since I knew my husband wasn’t going to volunteer to be Doctor Satan to our dog first. The room was getting hot, so I took off my coat. The vet grabbed my dog by his scruff, making a “tent” with his loose skin. She moved the hair to find his skin, stuck in the needle, and pressed down on the plunger. “See, nothing to it. You’re turn!” I’m sweating like I’m high in church. I fill the syringe, grab his fur, find his skin, and give my dog the injection of water. It was over before I could pee my pants and the dog didn’t even move. It was like he couldn’t feel a thing or if he could, it didn’t bother him. After my husband left, we felt better about giving the shot, but were still worried.

Fidget, Winter 2015

The next few weeks were an adjustment and were beyond frustrating. We were given the small dose so that we could gradually work our way up to the perfect amount of insulin for our dog. This didn’t happen over night. It took weeks and weeks of vet visits, different dog foods, and pee pads as far as the eye can see. There have been days where I come home and I wanted to cry or pull out my hair. It sucks to come home and clean up pee. It sucks to give your dog shots everyday and to have to change your work schedule to accommodate this. It sucks to have to carry the blind dog up and down steps to go to the vet. What doesn’t suck? Seeing your dog happy and wagging his tail because he is feeling better. Watching him slowly get on your bed when he hasn’t done that in months. Seeing your cat, Freddy, try to lead your blind dog to the backdoor.

Fidget playing it off that he is camera shy

Having a blind dog with diabetes hasn’t been a cake walk. There are good days and there are bad days. My friend Rich put it best when he said, “All of the happiness you get from your pets will make taking care of them when they get sick worth it.” Rich is right. I had 12 years with Fidget where he was there for me and now it is my turn to be there for him in a big way. He may be blind, he may have diabetes, but he is happy, and as long as his tail is still wagging I think we will be just fine.

I found this tag while looking on Amazon.com, just in case the blind dog gets loose.

Here are some of my tips for anyone with a diabetic critter:

1. Ask your vet about what food to buy. They will know more brands that Joe Blow at a big chain pet store who is just there stocking shelves.

2. If you can't find a certain dog food, go to a specialty store. They will know more about the products and are more likely to be able to get in what you need even if they don't carry it in the store.

3. Pee pads are good, but not for big spills. While pee pads caught more of my dogs accidents, they weren't nearly big enough to not leak. I'm sure these work better with small dogs. I still use them because they do make it easier to clean up accidents as opposed to mopping up lakes of urine.

4. Walmart has best pricing for insulin and needles. For 100 needles and a vile of insulin I play under $40. Plus, you get to cut the line because it's not for a human!

5. Weekly trips to the vet until you have your pets dosage just right are necessary and don't cost nearly as much as a regular visit. 

6. Just breathe. You can do this! It does get better.

7. There are lots of sites that can help you if you have any questions about Dog Diabetes including Hills Pet and Pet Web MD.

Thanks for reading about my trials and tribulations with Doggie Diabetes.

Krystal Lake