Back in June of 2011, we adopted our second dog (of three). Trixter came to us in much the same way Gily did. Homeless, hungry and riddled with heartworms. Our cat, Boomer tells the story of his adoption in this old post.
Before we get into the subject of this post, I just want to share that his chronic disease is managed and he is living quite comfortably with us!
In December of 2012, we began noticing signs that Trixter wasn’t feeling well. Notably, he was drinking an increased amount of water and was drooling excessively. By early January, we got him into the vet after realizing that he was losing weight, yet had a voracious appetite. That was the day we found out he was diabetic and that he would require insulin shots twice a day. He stayed at the vet’s office for a few days while they monitored his blood sugar and adjusted his insulin dose to know the right number of units to give him.
When we got him home, he was more like an energetic little puppy than a crippled old man (he doesn’t have use of one of his forelegs). We were so pleased to see such a change in him. I was the resident “Nurse” in charge of his injections, and it was a completely new experience to me, that I obsessed and worried over for the first few months. I did find that a treat of turkey bacon afterwards was enough to keep him still to get the shots and we have all (the other dogs get the treat, too) settled into a comfortable routine that we carry out twice daily, every day at approximately the same times.
My main motivation in writing this post was to share what little bit of wisdom I have in the matter, with the hopes that it might answer some question someone out there may have. First of all, if you are considering adopting a dog that is diabetic, be sure to read as much information as you can find on the matter. Be aware that it is a major commitment. We choose not to travel, but if we did, it would require boarding Trix so that his insulin could be administered on schedule. There is also diet to consider. We found that in order to keep his blood sugar levels steady, we would have to feed him a special diet. A diabetic dog (or cat) is definitely a bigger commitment of time and money than a healthy pet. HOWEVER, if you choose to take on the responsibility, it is certainly rewarding, and if you happen to have a pet that is diagnosed, please know that it is a completely manageable disease and your pet will love you all the more for giving him or her a chance at a healthy life.
The second thing I would like to address is the cost of Insulin. Dogs are prescribed the very same insulin that humans use. Trix was prescribed Novolin 70/30, which can cost as much as $100 a bottle. It was quite the sticker shock to realize that with his dosage, we would have to buy a bottle about every six weeks. In our area, Novolin 70/30 is also available in a generic brand from Walmart under the label ReliOn.
After MUCH research (including a call to pharmaceutical company itself), we found out that the ReliOn brand is the exact same insulin as the name brand, so we switched Trixter to that, without incident. At only $25 a bottle, it has made keeping him healthy so much more affordable. I feel like this is important information to share in that it might help someone make a decision about whether or not to treat their diabetic pet. While there is an increased cost associated with this illness, it doesn’t have to be as costly as it could be. One thing to be careful of is to make sure that you receive the same insulin each time. I ALWAYS check the bottle to make sure it says Novolin 70/30 on it.
As far as needles are concerned, it’s really a personal preference. I have found that Trix and I prefer a shorter needle, usually 1/2 inch. And, the gauge I like most is 28 or 29. It seems to be small enough that it isn’t uncomfortable for him, but not so flimsy that it bends easily (yes, with a wiggle worm, that happens occasionally).
To give your pet as little discomfort as possible, always warm the insulin before you inject. I find that placing the syringe under my arm for a few minutes is usually enough to make it warm enough for him. Cold insulin can sting and be unpleasant. Remember to give your pet an acceptable treat (nothing high in carbs or sugar) afterwards, to help him make the association that shot time is a good time.
Don’t let the idea of daily insulin shots deprive you of the special love and gratitude you could be getting from a sweet pet that needs you. Adding quality years to a life is never a wrong decision!