March 15, 2010

Oh sweet sugar

I have had my pooch for just over seven years now. We adopted her from the Humane Society when she was four, so she has recently turned 11 years old. Most any dog owner will tell you they have the best dog in the world, and I am no different. I don't know where I would have been without her in the last year when I was coming home to an otherwise empty house. She is my fuzzy buddy, my chunky monkey, my sweet sister. 

The pooch made the move down to San Diego with me. As I mentioned before, she had a tough time on the trip down, bad enough that I was concerned about her well-being. She has recovered somewhat, regained some appetite, but she hasn't returned completely to how she was before the trip. Her bum legs seemed a little weaker and she seemed to have less energy and excitement.

In the last two weeks, something else had changed. She started drinking much more water than normal, and as a result she needed to go outside more frequently. She has had a urinary tract infection once before, and I thought that maybe this was what was going on now. Her water consumption continued to rise to the point where she was drinking four times as much as normal. The night before her vet appointment, she woke me up three times just so she could get to her water dish.

It turns out it wasn't a urinary tract infection. The pooch actually has diabetes. When they tested both her urine and blood work, the amount of glucose was off the charts. The normal range is 70 - 143, and her reading was 630. The veterinarian had little doubt about the diagnosis.

I had heard that diabetes was a concern in cats, but for some reason it was a surprise to hear that dogs can develop it. In my still limited internet research, I have found one statistic that says that one in ten dogs will suffer from it, and that the incidence is increasing much like it is in humans. Heavier, older, female dogs are more susceptible, and the pooch falls into that category.

A quick synopsis on diabetes for those who have not had experience with it, taken from
When we eat, our bodies break food down into organic compounds, one of which is glucose.  The cells of our bodies use glucose as a source of energy for movement, growth, repair, and other functions. But before the cells can use glucose, it must move from the bloodstream into the individual cells. This process requires insulin.

In a diabetic animal there is insufficient insulin to switch off glucose production by the liver or to efficiently store excess glucose derived from energy giving foods. This means that the blood concentration of glucose rises and eventually exceeds a level beyond which the kidneys let glucose leak into the urine. This loss of glucose in urine takes water with it by a process called osmosis and causes larger volumes of urine to be produced than normal. The excessive loss of water in urine is compensated for by thirstiness and increased water consumption. The principal clinical signs of an animal with diabetes mellitus are therefore polyuria (excessive urination) and polydipsia (excessive water consumption). In addition, diabetic animals tend to lose weight because they breakdown stores of fat and protein (muscle) to make glucose and ketones (an alternative fuel) in the liver. Other clinical signs diabetics may include: cataracts, polyphagia (increased appetite), exercise intolerance and recurrent infections. If the production of ketones by the liver is excessive, a condition called ketoacidosis occurs which makes the animal very unwell.

So the major (early) symptoms of canine diabetes are:
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive water consumption
  • Increased urination
  • Cataracts
  • Weight loss
The pooch has all of these symptoms, which makes the diagnosis seem even more believable (she has lost almost 10 pounds in a month and a half, but she is still at a healthy weight). From what I understand, the damage diabetes does to the body progresses to the liver and kidneys among other things. Fortunately, the blood work did not show indications of organ damage at this point. The cataracts are permanent, but hopefully if her diabetes is managed properly, they won't get any worse.

So, what does this mean? She is now on a special diet of prescription dog food. The food is higher in fiber, more whole grain, and slower burning fuel that shouldn't spike her blood sugar as much. There will be no treats or dog biscuits in her future unless I find something that won't mess with her glucose level. She also needs to get shots of insulin twice a day (by yours truly). I am not a fan of needles, but we are four shots into the program and we are both doing OK so far. I had heard that in humans, it is possible to modify your diet sufficiently to reduce the need for insulin. The vet did not think this was possible for the pooch, so at this point she will be getting shots for the rest of her life.

It is all still sinking in, but I have found some helpful websites and a Yahoo group dedicated to diabetes in pets. After getting some background medical information, I am hoping to learn even more from folks that are going through this with their own pets. There is a list of things I need to get or figure out including how to check her blood sugar, how often we will need to go to the vet, and how to dispose of all the needles.

The good news is that the insulin shots seem to working. It has been less than two days, but her excessive water consumption stopped almost immediately like a switch had been thrown. I am hoping that she continues to improve, and that some of the weakness in her legs may improve under the new regimen.

Who knew she could be too sweet.


kat said...

Funny...when I first read the symptoms and knowing her age...and having seen a couple pics, my first thought was "yep...diabetes". Bruiser and Isis both have it. They were on insulin, but now I've been able to get them off it. Bruiser was crazy high, too (459). I now have a glucometer (a VERY good idea to get one, btw...and it's very easy to test them at home...I could talk you through it..) You should be able to find a list online of good canned foods to feed. Don't be surprised if it's the "cheap" stuff. Here, I used to buy the expensive stuff...and look what THAT got me. NOW, they are on Friskies canned...and nothing else. Dry food is VERY bad for are any canned foods with words such as "gravy", "Sliced", "minced" as they usually are high in carbs. The best stuff is usually a pate. I don't care what your vet might be able to get her off the insulin. And...definitely get a glucometer. It's scary to be giving insulin and not be able to monitor them. Anyway...don't hesitate to ask questions...I got lots of info!

Me said...

What a sweet picture.

Thankfully, she's doing better.

tami said...

I'm glad she is doing better. I was getting very worried throughout your posts. Good job finding out what was going on with your pooch.