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Life with a Diabetic Dog

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Life with a Diabetic Dog

This is not a sad story. You’ve never met my dog Edie, but here are some things to know about her. She is a Yorkie/ Brussels Griffon mix. She snorts when she’s happy. She loves to cuddle. She is sassy and vocal when she wants something. She trots with pride after she gets groomed because she knows she looks good. She loves going on walks. She is a happy senior dog. She is also diabetic and blind.

She is a happy senior dog. She is also diabetic and blind.

In November 2017 I noticed that Edie was urinating a lot. I mean A LOT. I was refilling her water bowl several times a day. She was having accidents and they were roughly the size of small lakes. Something was wrong.

Edie was 6. At 5 after some routine bloodwork she was diagnosed with a disease called Cushings. Cushings affects the adrenal gland and causes an overproduction of cortisol. She was already on a fancy, expensive medication for that. When she was diagnosed she was the youngest patient Dr. Isherwood had ever diagnosed with that disease. Now, a year later, something else was going on and I was terrified.

We did bloodwork. We sent it off to the lab. The next day was Thanksgiving. So I waited. The holidays are a terrible time to be focused on what could be wrong with your pet. The exam and the bloodwork were a chunk of change I wasn’t planning on spending. But Edie had been with me since the beginning. We’d moved to Chicago and back together. She’d helped me get through college. She’d been there to greet me at the door during my roughest days. She is a constant source of joy in my life. I was going to do anything I could for her.

She is a constant source of joy in my life. I was going to do anything I could for her.

The day after Thanksgiving her bloodwork came in and the doctor asked me to bring her back in to check her blood glucose levels. She was worried about diabetes. 

We did an ear stick, akin to a finger prick for people, and her glucose was 605. Glucose on a pet is normally between 100-200. She was diabetic.

I had never felt so overwhelmed. She would need insulin every 12 hours, which meant I would have to make sure I was home every 12 hours. She would need injections, she would need continued ear sticks. She needed special food. She needed bi-annual exams. She would be insulin dependent for the remainder of her life. It was a lot. Diabetic dogs require a lot of medical management. I was told that 75% of all diabetic dogs go blind within the first year of their diagnosis. Her Cushings would make her Diabetes harder to manage. Suddenly, I had a special needs, very high maintenance dog on my hands and she was only 6 years old. 

So what do you do?

So what do you do? I am someone who finds power in knowledge, so I began my research. I started her insulin. I bought a glucometer. Luckily, she was already on a twice a day feeding schedule so she wasn’t looking for her perpetually full food bowl. I gave away all of her treats. I impressed upon my family the importance of never, ever feeding her scraps of food. Diabetic dogs need to be on a very strict regimen. Lucky for me I was already pretty consistent with her. I cried a lot. I went through a kind of grieving process for what had been. No more carefree dog ownership. No more once a year vet visits. When your pet is healthy, it’s easy to take it for granted. To be floored by their annual $200 vet visit for vaccines. Remember when she was just a puppy? Little and adorable and floofy? It’s easy to say yes to them then without thinking of what might happen in the future. 

Edie went blind 6 months later

Edie went blind 6 months later. It started with her refusing to go up and down the stairs. She missed her bowl a few times when she went to eat. She trotted into a wall or two. A thick, white sheen covered her pupils. She developed cataracts in a month which caused other eye problems. I spent more time crying. My dog had just seen me for the last time and I had no idea.

But I told you this wasn’t a sad story. Edie is a wonderfully adaptable dog. She is and has always been happy. It took her a few months to adjust to the blindness. She took things slow and felt around for the borders of things, but sooner rather than later we were back on our walks. She still plays with her squeaky toys with the enthusiasm she had when she was a puppy. Dogs are incredible fighters. She has taught me a lot about perseverance and faith.

Diabetes requires long term, involved medical care. It is not something everyone can do with their pet. It is expensive and it is time consuming and it turns you and your pets life upside down. 

I have grown to have an incredible fondness for our diabetic patients. I am now a certified Diabetic Counselor for our Fern Creek location. I have created an Instagram for Edie that you can find under the handle @diabetes_edie to educate other people about diabetes. I want to provide support for those going through this overwhelming diagnosis. While every pet is different, I like to show that it is possible to have a happy dog with chronic illness.

We’re hanging on, we’re thriving. Edie just celebrated her 2nd full year of being diabetic and she is going strong. Every year is another gift. I wouldn’t have it any other way.