I had no idea what the future held on February 16, 2011. My 7 year old Pomeranian, Chip, was diagnosed with Diabetes. I was shocked. I didn’t know dogs could be diabetic. Chip had always been overweight and that contributes to diabetes. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get his weight down. It seemed the harder I tried, the more he gained. Chip was 18 pounds and diabetic… now what?
The previous year during his yearly medical exam and blood work we discovered Chip had thyroid issues. It was a simple fix with prescription soloxine and monitoring through blood work. While monitoring his blood work, the Vet discovered Chip had diabetes. I started to notice that the water in the water bowl was disappearing faster than normal but didn’t think much of it. I also noticed there were “accidents” in the house but had difficulty figuring out who was actually responsible because I have another Pomeranian, D.D., a rescue Shepherd mix, Rhett, and a cat, Chloe. The diabetes diagnosis explains it, it was Chip, excessive urination and drinking are classic signs of diabetes.
It seemed simple enough to fix… I guess – consistent feeding and insulin shots twice daily 12 hours apart. But I felt so intimated, so afraid. What if I hurt Chip? What if I gave him too much insulin? I could do it, I had to do it — for Chip. The vet’s office had me practice my shots and then sent me home… still basically an amateur shot giver. Whew, it was scary.
My fear subsided when I felt I got the hang of it and it actually went pretty well. We had to run weekly blood curves which is a blood sampling which is administered like this:
This was done until we found the right amount insulin to administer. We were prescribed a human insulin, Humulin N because at that time there wasn’t a dog insulin available. After several weeks we found Chip’s magic number and were sent home with instructions to call if the urinating and drinking heavily started again.
A few months later, the bottom fell out.
Chip’s body stopped responding to the insulin. We switched to another insulin with negative results. We then switched him to Levemir insulin, which is 4 times stronger than most insulins. We saw some response but not enough. Chip became sick. He stopped eating. He lost half of his body weight. Prior to this he had gained more weight and was up to 20 pounds. It seemed like over night he dropped to 10 pounds, a much healthier weight, but not healthy because he lost it too fast. My little boy who used to eat everything in sight refused to eat. I can remember getting food, different foods, pouring it into bowls and sitting the bowls all around him, begging him to eat. He wouldn’t. I tried feeding him by hand and he would eat a little, but not enough. Without food, insulin would make his sugar drop too low. Without insulin, his sugar would skyrocket.
Sleep became foreign to me. When I did sleep I would wake up abruptly and reach for Chip to make sure he was breathing. I was scared to go to work and leave him. I was also scared to come home for fear of what I might find… I was at my wits end.
In the middle of this battle Chip lost the use of first his right leg and then his left leg. The vet thought he had torn both ACLs. With his diabetes out of control, he couldn’t have surgery, it was too much of a risk to his life. So now Chip couldn’t walk, wouldn’t eat, he just stayed in the same spot until I came home and carried him out holding him the whole way. I held him as much as I could. I didn’t know how long I had left to hold him.
We, of course, returned to the Vet and again we were going once and twice a week. The vet was wonderful, but knew his limitations and referred us to a veterinary specialist hospital. I think that Somebody was looking out for us. Chip’s appointment was for the following day, but something didn’t seem right so I called back and they allowed us to come in that same day. When we checked his blood sugar that day he was at 60. 60 is extremely low. For a diabetic dog the ideal numbers are between 100 and 200. If I hadn’t gone in that day, I would have fed Chip and given him his insulin that night. That would have dropped his sugar even lower and he wouldn’t have made it through the night… small miracles.
With the guidance and patience of Chip’s new vet, we found the right combination of food and insulin. We used a prescription food and reduced his insulin to ½ unit of Levemir. We temporarily added a prescription appetite stimulant to get Chip to eat. Chip slowly started to heal.
I was taught how to do physical therapy on Chip’s atrophied leg muscles. Twice a day I used hot and cold compresses and did “range of motion” exercises on Chip’s legs to rebuild those muscles. I enlisted the help of my neighbor and we encouraged Chip to walk. I walked in front of Chip enticing him with a treat while my neighbor walked behind to stand him back up when he wandered to the side and flopped in the grass. It started with just a few steps and over several months, Chip learned to walk again.
I discovered the American Diabetes Association had a fundraiser, Stepout: Walk to Stop Diabetes. A walk! What better way to celebrate Chip’s new found ability to walk. His new life! We signed up, Chip was our team captain and he raised enough money to be named a Champion to Stop Diabetes.
After the first walk, we decided to use this as an opportunity to make others aware of canine diabetes. Some of Chip’s problems were my lack of knowledge. His vets were great, but it took Facebook groups of diabetic dog owners to teach me much of what I needed to know. These groups — Canine Diabetes Support and Information, Canine Diabetes Awareness, Dogs With Diabetes, Diabetic Dog Owners — have knowledgeable members who are there to offer advice, lend support, and guide you through the rough times. I had no idea that I should home test to know what Chip’s blood sugar was. There is a meter, Alphatrak II designed just for dogs. It is Chip’s lifesaver. Unlike a human, a dog can’t come to you say I don’t feel good, my sugar might be too low. And often there are no outward signs. So staying on top of blood testing is vital.
Today Chip is doing well, and he sometimes even breaks out into run which does my heart good. He never regained full use of his right leg and he has a definite limp, but he is thriving. We have since found out he also has Atypical Canine Cushings Disease which tends to create difficulty in controlling diabetes. There are different medicines to control it – Chip takes Ketoconazole, Lignans, and Melatonin.
I now home cook his meals, he eats lamb and long grain brown rice with the possibility that I will be adding green beans. He had developed yeast infections on his paw pads and ears, possibly from the cushings so we got away from processed foods. He is fed twice daily, each meal and component is weighed for consistency and he gets 2 units of Levemir after each meal. We still have our challenges, but we handle them.
In 2013, Chip was again named a Champion To Stop Diabetes and we are striving towards that goal this year. Our next walk is September 20, 2014. Donate to Chip
I still wake up occasionally in the middle of the night. I still reach out and touch Chip. He’s there, he’s strong. He’s my little Champion.