Pet Diabetes Presents:
Julius - A Canine with Diabetes Mellitus!


L to R: Fritzi, Mitzi, Jasmine, Gypsy, Julius 
 
 

Julius (originally named Julius Caesar)
Born March 11, 2002 - diagnosed as a diabetic June 8, 2002
 
When we bred our two white miniature schnauzers just after Christmas 2001, we knew what the risks were...or so we thought. While we realized that there could be health issues involved, we had no idea that this would be a bona-fide life altering experience!
 
Julius, was one of a litter of four puppies whelped by our little girl Mitzi  - with a little help from our male Fritzi, both of whom were healthy and a little shy of 3 years old at the time. One of the puppies (a little female) crossed over the bridge after only a day on this earth. The other three (two girls and a boy) were healthy, but what a big disparity in size among the three the was! The largest one we named Jasmine. We nicknamed her "moose" because at 6.5 ounces, she was so much larger than the other three. The other two puppies we named Gypsy (2.5 oz) and Julius (3.0 oz). As you can see, Julius wasn't actually the runt of the litter - he weighed in third behind Jasmine and the little female who didn't survive (3.5 oz).
 
It was during the first couple days after his birth that we realized that Julius wasn't thriving. He was weaker than the two females, and would always get shuffled away from his mommy's teets by the bigger, stronger females, so he needed assistance nursing. And even when he would nurse, he wouldn't go at it for very long at all. Julius began to lose weight, which for a 3 oz pup, means death unless taken care of right away. We began to supplement his nursing with dropper feeding - Esbilac every 2 - 3 hours, day and night. This was incredibly taxing, and if I hadn't planned for this beforehand by taking two weeks off from work from Mitzi's expected due date, I might not have been able to out as much time and effort into insuring Julius' survival.
 
Julius weight loss stopped, but the gain was excruciatingly slow. We weighed him every chance we got - he would gain a couple ounces, then lose one or two back. We continued to dropper feed him - we'd take turns staying up at night, or taking him into work with us. We had the vet run numerous fecal floats to see if he had worms or any other parasite - no sign of anything. 
 
As the weeks went by his weight curve was only a third of the other puppies. At one month old he only weighed 1 lb, 5 oz. His appearance was frightening - a bag of bones covered by long scraggly hair. He looked so sad and pathetic, but was fighting so hard for life  - like the little champ that we would come to know.
 
It was mid May - Julius was about two months old and weighed only two and half pounds - a weight that would fluctuate pretty wildly. We began to wean him off the Esbilac and his mom's milk (much later than his sisters - but his size and weight at the time was that of a pup less than half his age!) It was around this time that we began to notice something strange. He would eat and drink water like a maniac. He would drink so much water that his little tummy would become distended and you could hear the water slosh around - it was like holding a little water balloon! And while his weight fluctuated due to the amount he ate and drank, when we weighed him before a meal (when he wasn't full of food) his weight would stay the same day in and day out! In addition, he was peeing a lot. But what was most disturbing was that we realized he was pooping out undigested food. We had no idea what was going on - the vet suspected a liver shunt. We had some blood work run on him, which was a bit risky, given his small size and weight. The evening after the blood work was done, May 23 - we almost lost Julius.
 
He had appeared fine while getting the blood work done. I took him home and let him rest. When I checked in on him a couple hours later, he had become very weak and appeared to be a great amount of discomfort. I rushed him to the emergency vet - he could barely stand up on the scale. I was horrified when I saw the weight that came up on the scale - 1.8 lbs. At 2.5 months only, his weight was only 4 ounces more than what it had been at one month. Even worse, he had a fever of 105F. Picture a 38 year old guy was bawling his eyes out like a child - that was me at the time. He was started on a fluid IV, which left this huge hump in his back that made him look like a cross between a scruffy white guinea pig and a camel. I got him home, we took turns holding him and covering him with fresh cold compresses. We took his rectal temperature (boy...the things he had to go through!) hourly. By midnight, he was down to 102F and by sunrise was only a little higher than normal. He had made it.
 
We scheduled an appointment with the University of Florida's small animal hospital and took Julius there on June 4th. We were hoping that it was a liver shunt, and that he would be able to have surgery to take care of it - and go on to having a relatively normal life. He was only supposed to be up at the U of F for 2 to 4 days. He wound up staying for 14! (*sound of cash register opening up*)  After a battery of bloodwork tests, an ultrasound, more fecals, etc., Julius was diagnosed as both a type I diabetic and having exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, a disease where the pancreas fails to produce digestive enzymes.
 
We finally got Julius back home in mid June. Once the diagnosis was made, real progress followed. We settled into a routine of insulin injections/feedings at 4AM/4PM, and supplemental feedings at 8AM/8PM. In the weeks and months that followed, his dosages and insulin type was adjusted. He was SOOO difficult to give shots to in the beginning! He had so little meat on hi bones that we would have a hard time pinching enough skin, and the needle would sometimes go in and then right out and we'd wind up squirting insulin all over him instead of into his little
body. And then there was the long scruffy hair - while as it grew out it made him the cutie that he is, we quickly realized had to get it cut if we were going to be able to give him his shots with any kind of consistent success.
 
He started with NPH only, and was switched to a combination of regular insulin and glargine. We only had one serious hypoglycemic episode (July) that occurred when we failed to recognize that Julius had vomited right after his 4PM meal/insulin. There was also the occasional bouts with infections and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a recurrent bacterial infection that commonly affects EPI pups with diarrhea and weight loss if left untreated. We keep a jar of Tylan on hand, and this has always proven to take care of the problem quickly.
 
As the days and weeks passed, Julius' blood glucose continued to become better regulated. We had more than a dozen curves run, and every three months we would take him back up to the U of F (*sound of cash register opening up*)  to have a 48 hour curve run and insulin dosage adjusted. In late December, I began to notice a cataract developing in one of Julius' eyes. By mid January, both eyes had become clouded over, and it had become apparent that Julius was rapidly losing his eyesight. He wouldn't respond to visual signals, and became very 'clingy' towards us. We took him to a vet opthalmologist, and he suggested surgery as soon as possible - on the condition that his blood glucose levels were stable. We decided to have the ultrasonic surgery performed at the end of January (*sound of cash register opening up*).
 
We got him back with a shaved face (he looked like a min-pin) and an elizabethan collar - boy did he look sad! But after weeks of pills, three different kinds of eye drops, in addition to the EPI/diabetic treatment, he began to gradually heal and look like a schnauzer again. As of late March, he is still on his eye drops until he heals completely. His bouts with SIBO occur less frequently, and his BG is becoming stable once again.
 
While Julius has been a labor-intensive (not to mention EXPENSIVE) little fellow, it has been a labor of love for both Christine and myself. If we had to do it over again, we'd do it the same way in a hearbeat!
 
Diabetes need not be a death sentence - it just takes personal sacrifices - time, effort and money - although, in our case, much of the expense we incurred was due to Julius' battle with EPI.
 
Tony Cristaldi
West Melbourne, FL

Check out all the pictures of Julius on his homepage
including pics of him from cataract surgery.

 Julius's Homepage 
 

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