Caring for a Diabetic Dog – Sweet Oscar the Rescue

my schnauzer oscar sitting in the yard

This blog could easily be a dog blog given how much I like to talk about my Schnauzer, Oscar.  Just last week I was talking to a colleague and mentioned Oscar several times. Bewildered, my colleague asked “Who’s Oscar?” I was so embarrassed. He is so the center of my universe, I forget not everyone knows him. The truth is, since he was diagnosed with diabetes a little over a year ago, his care is so much a part of my day that my sweet diabetic dog is always on my mind.

Adopting a Rescue

When you adopt an older dog, you automatically resign yourself to the possibility of health problems. Yes, because health issues come with age, but also because the dog’s medical history and previous care are likely unknown.

Oscar will be eleven in February and we rescued him when he was seven. At that time, he was in good health, but a little “portly” according to the rescue organization. I did a lot of research on Schnauzers before signing Oscar’s adoption papers, so I knew he was prone to certain conditions such as canine diabetes.

Right away, I got him on a daily exercise routine and fed him just the right amount of a specialty dog food. As structured as I tried to be, my entire household had a tough time saying no to his constant begging and adorable face. Little by little our table scrap indiscretions added up. Of course, there were times when his overeating was unintentional – on our part anyway. Like the time he ate a full bag of bagels we accidentally left on a bench low enough for him to reach. And then there was Christmas when he unwrapped a box of Godiva chocolates and powered back every single one.

Never underestimate the nose of a food-crazed dog.

Canine Diabetes: The Diagnosis & Treatment

Needless to say, in summer 2015 when he began drinking excessively and refusing his daily walk, I suspected diabetes right away. Others said, “It’s hot – he’s just thirsty and lazy.” While that might’ve been true, I knew something was different.

treatment for diabetic dog
Novolin N Insulin and syringes

I wasted no time taking him to our local animal hospital, Bulger Veterinary Hospital, where we confirmed that, indeed, he had canine diabetes.  I was so upset and nervous when I learned he’d require two insulin shots a day. Thankfully, the veterinarian who diagnosed Oscar, and is now our regular vet, was comforting, calm and conservative in her treatment plan. She assured me that having a diabetic dog was very manageable and Oscar would be fine once we got his glucose levels back on track. Dr. Julie Haller, DVM treated both Oscar and me with such kindness and patience that we were on the road to in-home care right away. While scary at first, canine diabetes is not a death sentence. The fact that Dr. Haller offered her email so we could easily stay in touch while monitoring Oscar’s progress gave me so much comfort as I learned the new routine at home. Even now, Dr. Haller is available and responsive on email whenever I have a concern.

As anyone who has a sick pet knows, it’s challenging. For a diabetic dog, a strict feeding schedule is very important. At set times every day, Oscar needs an insulin shot with each of his two meals. Many people are surprised when I share this and ensuring that someone is home at just the right time is not easy.

We’ve had to make some adjustments and going away is trickier than it used to be, but we manage and I’m happy to say he’s doing great.

Tips for caring for a diabetic dog

  • Find a veterinarian you trust. While many are good at what they do, you also want to feel comfortable with them. What I love about Dr. Haller is that she doesn’t jump to unnecessary tests or treatments that would likely be overwhelming for Oscar and definitely overwhelming for my wallet.
  • Seek out the best and most cost-effective outlets for medication. I buy Oscar’s insulin from Walmart at 1/5 the cost of pharmacies nearby. It’s not as convenient, but well worth the savings.
  • Monitor your pet closely before jumping to invasive tests or procedures. If they are acting well (eating, peeing, pooping, sleeping, walking) avoid unnecessary treatments. I always say, I’ll know something is really wrong when Oscar skips a meal. That has never happened, even on his worst diabetic day.
  • Don’t assume every odd behavior suggests something is wrong. They are dogs after all, odd is what they do best.

And don’t forget…

  • Be aware of the conditions your dog is prone to and keep an eye out for symptoms. Knowing that Schnauzers are predisposed to canine diabetes was helpful in catching it quickly.
  • Feed your dog a healthy dog diet. While I loved sharing all my yummy food with Oscar, I regret the contribution it had to the onset of his diabetes. I feel guilty about it to this day.
  • And, of course love them, pay attention to them and always treat them kindly.
my diabetic dog oscar playing outside
Oh happy day!

 

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Oscar’s Travels – Our Pet Friendly Stay at The Wolfeboro Inn

gazebo at the pet friendly Wolfeboro Inn
The Gazebo

 

Leaving your pet behind when you vacation is never easy. My situation with Oscar got more complicated last year when he was diagnosed with diabetes. Now, he requires two insulin shots a day and while he is doing very well, I worry about him much more than before. So whenever possible, I like to travel with him.

We’ve rented a house with him before and that was pretty seamless. This past weekend, however, we decided to try something new and checked into a pet friendly hotel. On a whim, I called The Wolfeboro Inn on Lake Winnipesaukee and, by chance, they had a pet friendly suite available for just one night. We took it! The ground level room was very spacious and its patio door led us right out to the property’s grassy lawn. It was perfect.

 

my daughters and dog on the dock at the Wolfeboro Inn
A walk on the Inn’s dock

 

Oscar was certainly nervous and excited. He’s a Schnauzer; by nature he’s rigid with his schedule and routine. I knew it would take him time to adjust to this new situation. I made no plans to rush out for the first few hours and planned nothing where he couldn’t come along. In the evening, we dined in the hotel’s, Wolfe’s Tavern, so that we could check on him frequently. He never made a peep.

During the day, he joined us for lunch, a little shopping, a lot of walking and, for the first time since we’ve had him, swimming. We adopted Oscar when he was seven in 2013 and since then I’ve always wondered if he could swim. What better place to test the waters than the lake. I’m happy to say, he pulled off a doggie paddle like a pro.

 

oscar's first swim in lake winnipesaukee
He did it!

 

I really enjoyed this experience with Oscar. It brought a new dimension of fun to our travels and it certainly encouraged conversation. So many nice folks stopped to talk and give Oscar a pat on the head. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tiring – for the both of us.

 

my dog oscar sleeping
Wiped out!

 

There were so many new things for Oscar to experience and for me to take into consideration that we both crashed on the drive home. The funniest experience was when we walked into the hotel lobby in the morning for coffee and he began barking at all of the people who he seemed to think were invading his space. I imagine his mindset was, “why are all these strangers here in my big new house?” Well, that certainly woke me up.

The best part – no one so much as flinched. The hotel receptionist was obviously accustomed to the pet friendly environment and just smiled while a lovely couple, who were staying at the hotel with their two Maltese, came right over to say hi and calm Oscar’s nerves.

I think, for Oscar, a few more five-star stays would be just what he needs to get more comfortable. I would love to try the grand Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, NH and The Woodstock Inn in Vermont – both of which offer pet accommodations.

Do you travel with your dog? Any suggestions or recommendations?

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Haute Under the (Dog) Collar

dog collars
Decisions, decisions! Dog collars for every occasion.

 

Motherhood can take many forms. The busier my girls get, the more I transfer my smothering to my schnauzer, Oscar.

Not long ago, a friend commented on Oscar’s copious dog collar collection (Hi Gretch!). I was thrilled that someone noticed and explained that we’re all lucky he’s not a girly teacup pup because if he were, he’d most definitely be dressed to the nines. Why I have this compulsion, I’m not entirely sure. But fortunately for Oscar, and everyone else who knows me, he does not like to be weighed down with uncomfortable canine apparel.  The one time I put a t-shirt on him, he froze and wouldn’t move a muscle. It was a Thing 2 t-shirt! It would’ve been so cute for one of my girls to wear Thing 1 with him in Thing 2.

Dressing Oscar?

Alas, I won’t torture my poor boy, but there is something I oddly enjoy about dressing a dog.  They have personalities after all and what better way to express yourself than through your wardrobe.  Luckily, my fashion affinity is not entirely lost on Oscar.  I’ve channeled my desire to adorn him through collars.

Oscar’s Dog Collar Collection

He has sports dog collars, Christmas dog collars, weekend/leisure dog collars and two signature mustache collars.  However, my all-time favorite is what I like to call his “business tie.”

 

Schnauzer dog collar
Dapper.

 

His business collar gives him an air of sophistication and professionalism that seems to suit (pun intended) his serious demeanor. I put it on him on Mondays and together we are back to business with focus and determination. Yeah, I know I’m nuts.

Where to Buy Dog Collars

My favorite dog collars can be found at Ciao! Bow Wow in North Andover. Mel LaRocca is the owner and she stocks her specialty pet store with the most adorable assortment of collars, among other great pet foods and items. I’m particularly fond of the Yellow Dog Design line which, in a medium, is just the right size and weight.

All this collar talk has suddenly given me the urge to run down to Ciao! Bow Wow for a new look for my little man…

I’m back and wouldn’t you know I’ve found not one, but two new options. I couldn’t resist the funny face collar for Oscar’s rare, silly days and although he already has a Red Sox collar, I find it a bit cumbersome, so the new version is sure to get much more wear.

 

Red Sox and silly face dog collars from Ciao! Bow Wow
Today’s new collars courtesy of Ciao! Bow Wow

 

Ok, I’ve shared my crazy dog lady side, what crazy things do you do for your dog?

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I Love my Dog: An Ode to Oscar the Grouch

Holding my dog Oscar
Oscar the Schnauzer – look at that face!

 

I love my dog! I really love him.  Is that weird?  I know my fellow dog lovers won’t think so. Dog love is hard to explain. It’s essentially the same kind of love you might have for a child because, let’s face it, our furry friends become our babies. But some will argue; they aren’t children, they’re dogs. I understand and I’m sure people who don’t share the same passion for pets probably think we, dog lovers, are nuts. But since Oscar came into my life, I can’t stop myself from coddling and spoiling him – for that I will not apologize.

We adopted Oscar when he was seven and now he’s ten.  I think the fact that he was older when we got him made me attend to him all the more. He’s my little old man and an easy dog too. Even Tony (my husband), who vehemently didn’t want a dog, reveres Sir Oscar. You know the story – man didn’t want dog, now dog is man’s best friend…

Tony says he wishes he were a dog; now seeing what a charmed life Oscar is living. Sleep, food, walk, love and attention – it’s all good.

We are a family obsessed. My girls’ devotion to him has not waned a bit since the day we got him, my sister is as in love with him as I am and, somehow, every conversation circles back to him.

The funny thing about Oscar is that while we adore him, pamper him and treat him like the regal king that he is, he seems generally irritated by all of us. He likes to do his own thing most of the time and when we frequently scurry around to hug him or pick him up, his expression of pure exacerbation cracks us up. We’re never offended, because his aloofness is part of his charm. He may be a wee standoffish, but he’s a sweet boy, so he lets us have time with him. If a dog could roll his eyes in utter annoyance, I know that’s exactly what Oscar would do.  Instead, he just gives us a minute and then frantically squirms until we are forced to let him out of our affectionate grasp.

The fact that Oscar is a little grouchy actually makes him even more endearing. It may be why I love my dog the most. In a way, it’s nice that he’s not jumping all over us, licking or demanding play time.  He’s just a mellow guy who we somehow got lucky enough to call our own.

So, if you ever see me baby-talking to my dog or fussing over his every need like he’s a toddler, don’t think me crazy, it’s just that I love my schnauzer -A lot!

kisses for my dog Oscar
XOXO!

 

I know I’m not alone. What do you love most about your pet?

TBT –  Check out my Merrimack Valley Magazine column about Oscar from September 2014 – Matters of Life & Beth.

Thank you Jen Killilea for the photos!

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