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.
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.