About two years ago, Zack was diagnosed with diabetes. It was just after a hectic Christmas when we went to see the vet because he was drinking a lot of water and it seemed to come out of him as quickly as he drank it! I knew that was a sign of something because since he and his sister Zoe have become ‘senior’ dogs, the vet always asks about their water intake at annual checkup appointments. Dr. Feeney from Detroit Dover Animal hospital in Westlake knew it was diabetes right away. After a quick blood test, she confirmed that Zack has the most common form of the disease in dogs which is Type 1. This is insulin-dependent diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas is incapable of producing or secreting adequate levels of insulin. Dogs that have Type I require insulin therapy to survive.
I was scared because, even though I knew diabetes is treatable, it just seemed like this was going to be the beginning of the end. We all dread that time in our pets life when we are faced with the decision to keep treating an illness or put the pet out of their misery and let them go peacefully. But wait! Before I take you down this dark path of putting my beloved pet to sleep, its two years later and he’s fine!
But I won’t deny that it took us a while to get a handle on his sugar level. First, we had to figure out the correct amount of insulin to give Zack. Based on his weight, Dr. Feeney knew about where to start (8 milligrams) but it took several weeks of adding/lowering the dose and weekly visits to the vet to check his blood sugar.
There was also the fact that I wasn’t very good about getting the entire dose INTO Zack. Dr. Feeney showed me how to inject the insulin just under his skin at the back of his neck. She did it so quickly in the office, Zack didn’t even notice. Unfortunately for Zack, I’m not that good or that quick. Half the time I don’t think the entire dose got under his skin before he yelp and jerked away causing the syringe to go flying across the room. There were also a few occasions where I injected myself! Fortunately, my boyfriend is much better at giving Zack his two shots a day. I only have to do it when he is out of town.
Diabetic dogs often have to adjust their diet just like diabetic people do. I was already feeding Zack and Zoe a high quality, high protein dog food so we didn’t have to change their food. However, I did stop giving them store-bought dog treats. The high protein, American made and American sourced treats are very expensive. Instead, I cook chicken breasts in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes and chop them up into bite-sized treats. Zack and Zoe love them!
So here we are two years later and Zack is still his silly self. He has developed cataracts but Dr. Feeney says that could be due to age. Now at 14, he and his sister sleep most of the day but still manage to get lots of treats (protein only) and snuggles throughout the day.
I’m often asked about the cost of managing his diabetes and it’s minimal. I take him to the vet for a blood test occasionally just to make sure things are still at a positive level but that only costs about $16 since I’m not charged for an office visit just to have them draw blood. Also, the insulin and syringes are inexpensive too. I get 100 syringes at Walmart for about $24 and a bottle of insulin is only $12 and lasts quite a while since Zack now only gets 6 milligrams twice a day. The only other adjustment I had to make was that when I travel, which isn’t often, I need to hire a dog sitter who knows how to give an animal an injection. When I traveled in the past I could usually find someone to stay with the dogs at my house. But asking a friend to give Zack injections when I can barely do it myself seemed like a bit much. I did Family Pet Sitters, a local dog sitter who has a diabetic cat and has been a real life-saver!
If you think your pet might be diabetic, don’t panic like I did. Zack is proof that dogs can still live happy, high quality lives with diabetes. Diabetes is serious and needs to be managed but a yummy chicken treat after each shot makes it manageable.