Last March, we noticed someone (probably a dog, maybe Chris) was peeing on the floor overnight. We’d come downstairs in the morning to find a veritable lake Titicaca in the dining room. Based on the size of the urine output, we assumed the culprit was Gunny and got a full round of bloodwork for him. The vet asked if we wanted the same for Dyna (whose name is pronounced as if there is someone in the kitchen with her; we just spell it Dyna because she’s named after a type of Harley), and we said sure, but figured we were wasting our money because there was SO MUCH PEE that there was NO WAY Dyna could have done it.
Well, it turns out Dyna had untapped reserves of pee, as well as a raging case of diabetes. Or, as we call it, Dyna-betes.
In a weird way, I feel like the Dyna-betes is my fault, because I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Max (and a sneaking suspicion I had it toward the end of being pregnant with Evie because my pee smelled like cake batter). I know you can’t sneeze on a dog and give it Dyna-betes, but diabetes runs in my family — a comment I made AS A JOKE to the vet, who then felt the need to clarify that my dog and I are not genetically related.
Anyway, Dyna was lucky that I had gestational diabetes, because it meant we already had a blood sugar testing kit, and we even had some leftover insulin rattling around in the vegetable drawer of the fridge, so Dyna’s first month of diabetes was essentially free. $core.
Diabetes in a dog is essentially the same as diabetes in a person: you monitor blood sugar and adjust insulin dose to keep it steady. When I had diabetes, I took my blood sugar five times a day, which meant stabbing myself five times a day and it sucked and I would not wish diabetes on anyone just because of that. Our vet simply had us track Dyna’s blood sugar at first while we got her insulin dose figured out, and now I spot check it from time to time.
The nice thing about diabetes (other than the cake batter-scented pee of uncontrolled diabetes), is that it is controllable, and there’s no reason Dyna can’t have a good long life with us. If you’re going to have a diabetic dog, the first thing you need to do is start eating a lot of peanut butter, because peanut butter jars make the best sharps containers, and you will need a sharps container to put your dog’s used syringes in because there’s nothing worse then pricking yourself with a needle a dog has used and turning into a werewolf — which is what will happen if you don’t use a sharps container.
Speaking of syringes and insulin, Wal-Mart has the best price on both of them (literally one-fourth of the price of other pharmacies around us). Also, if you live in a state that’s in the grips of a heroin epidemic, expect that getting the syringes will be a giant pain in the ass involving questions and speaking to the pharmacist every damn time.
Dyna gets the insulin after she eats, at six in the morning and six at night. If she gets insulin before she eats, her blood sugar will get dangerously low, so we always check that she’s eaten (she’s a lab, so she pretty much always has. I am pretty sure that the first day of vet school is a guy walking into a lecture hall and going, “If you have a labrador that won’t eat, order blood work.”). Then we mix the insulin by rolling it between our hands, load up the syringe, and inject Dyna in the scruff of her neck. She then gets the rest of her medications (fish oil, glucosamine and a thyroid pill) in a big heaping spoonful of peanut butter as a reward for being good for her shot. Gee, I wonder why she got diabetes?
To take her blood sugar, I wait about two hours after her injection. When she suspects nothing, I make my move.
Oh, she totally suspects something, but she’s probably suspecting cheese.
I can’t take pictures of this process , so you’ll just have to take my word for it, but I put her in a headlock, lift her lip and prick her gums with the diabetes stabby tool (it’s in the top of the photo below, and diabetes stabby tool is its technical name).
I then scoop the blood up with a test strip, and the meter reads it. It’s a little high in this picture (we shoot for a reading between 100 and 200), so I took more readings that day and reported them to our vet, who upped her insulin dosage.
I used to get the blood for the readings by stabbing Dyna in some vein in her ear which was terrible for both of us, because Dyna would be all, “WAT DOING TO MY EAR?” and I would be all “I’M SO SORRY!” and Dyna would be all, “IF YOU SORRY WHY YOU DO IT?!” Then came Halloween.
On Halloween, we came back from trick or treating, put the kids to bed and gave Dyna her insulin. A few minutes later, we heard her collapse in the dining room, and then she came wobbling into the living room like she was just coming home from the world’s best canine kegger. When I had diabetes, I was told to keep an emergency Coke in the house in case of low blood sugar or a bad insulin reaction (orange juice would have worked too, but I’d rather go into an insulin coma than drink orange juice). With Dyna, we started pouring corn syrup down her throat, then Chris held her while I stabbed her ear 30,000 times trying to get enough blood to get a blood sugar reading. When I finally got a reading, it was 89, and our vet had told us anything under 100 was bad news (the numbers are different for people and other dogs, so please don’t use this post as a diagnostic tool).
By this point, Dyna was quiet but breathing really heavily, so I got her in the car and started for the emergency vet. I was driving pretty fast, and when I realized I couldn’t hear her breathing any more, I started driving extremely fast and ended up running a few red lights, skidding into the parking lot of the emergency vet, sprinting to the back of the car and yanking the door open, only to have Dyna spring out of the car, fresh as a daisy and fully cured by traveling at extra-legal speeds and flouting several traffic laws. It’s shocking that the American Veterinary Association does not recommend this course of treatment for all diabetic dogs.
I still took Dyna into the vet, where they confirmed the low blood sugar and kept her overnight for observation. They also taught me the best way to take a blood glucose reading on a dog. Rather than going all Sweeny Todd on the poor dog’s ear, you just load up the diabetes stabby cannon and get the dog in the gums. THE GUMS. I know getting stabbed in the gums sounds way worse than getting stabbed in the ear, but trust me, it is 1,000 times better when you’re trying to get blood from a dog, and you know you’re going to be trying to get blood from the dog for the next few years, because damn it, you love that little psycho.