What could be sweeter then a diabetic pet!

We always joked that our ShihTzu , Maggie, was part camel because she seemed to be able to "hold it" forever! If  there would ever be a time that we would be away from home longer than anticipated, we could count on a little surprise somewhere in the house from our other dog, Murphy, but never from Maggie. When we began to find puddles on the basement floor, we weren't sure what was going on! Murphy won't go down the steps, the cats each have their own litter box ( and were being used) so by process of elimination ( pardon the pun) we knew it had to be MagPie...this was completely out of character for her and we just couldn't figure it out! At first we thought perhaps it was just the fact that she was getting older ( almost 11) and wasn't able to hold it like she once could, and after a few basement puddles she just got herself into that habit. The very curious thing about the puddles though, they weren't typical dog pee, the urine was very thick and sticky, almost syrupy. In retrospect, I don't know how we could have been so blind to the obvious symptoms, but we sure were.

 Our pets share a large water bowl but for some reason it always seemed to be empty. We weren't sure who was drinking so much water but began to suspect that, too, was Maggie because when she'd go outside the first thing she would do was head straight for our pond and drink, drink, drink. We put the two together and began to suspect that it was more than our sweet girls aging process, but something more serious.

My husband and I were going away for a week's vacation and a very good and trusted friend always takes the dogs for us. ( She calls them her "grandpups"). Right before we left we took Maggie to the vet..we knew something was NOT right but didn't know what it was. By this time she seemed to be much more lethargic, depressed, panted a lot and simply wanted to be left alone...again, very out of character for her! Our regular vet who we love and completely trust was out on maternity leave so Maggie saw a fill in. She diagnosed a Urinary Tract Infection, put her on an antibiotic for 2 weeks and said we'd see improvement in a day or so. With that prognosis, we left on our vacation thinking all was fine or soon would be. We'd check back every day with our sitter and she said she seemed a bit better, not remarkably so, but a bit but she was still having accidents and drinking a lot. She also called and touched base with the vet while we were gone and this same vet told her to continue the antibiotics, it was all related to the UTI.

After we returned home I began researching her symptoms on line and found two common denominators..diabetes and Cushing's disease. I decided not to wait for the 3 weeks when the vet wanted  to see her again and called and asked to speak with one of the other senior doctors in the practice. I'm not making any judgment on the "fill in" doc, but it seemed to me that she was missing something very obvious in simply treating her UTI. After talking with him, he wanted to see her immediately..like in an hour . He, too, felt that there  was more  going on and felt sooner was more crucial than later so off we went. He had her the entire day and on picking her up he said he sent some of her tests to a large Veterinary Hospital a few hundred miles from here and wouldn't have conclusive results for 24 hours. He didn't want to give me anything(other than she still had her UTI) until he had everything conclusively and entirely. He called the next afternoon and confirmed what I already knew. My sweet baby had diabetes and Cushing's. 

In the meantime, I had been talking to a friend(?), explaining what I suspected and she told me of 2 dogs that she knew of with Cushing's that had to be euthanized within a month or so of diagnosis. Both dogs went blind and deteriorated very quickly and that was the only thing left to do. When I heard the test results, I completely lost it, thought my precious Maggie had just received a death sentence. My head was spinning and couldn't imagine what was next. Although the vet assured me both conditions were manageable I felt my girl was only on borrowed time. I had never heard of Cushing's and had no idea animals could have diabetes so figured first and foremost I needed to educate myself and network with others who have been on the same journey . My husband and I agreed that we would do any and everything possible to keep her healthy and happy for as long as we could but if that became a losing battle we would let her go. I talked to the vet about this and asked him if he felt we should let her go at this point rather than prolonging the inevitable. He told me as in anything there are never any hard and fast guarantees but felt if we could get the Cushing's under control first we could also get the diabetes under control and MagPie should have any where from one to five more years of quality life. Hearing that was almost as good as a winning lottery ticket!!! Speaking of which, we sure could have used one of those because, I'll be honest, all the tests/screens/etc. darn near broke the bank! We had to be realistic and take that aspect into consideration also. We never wanted money to be a factor on our decision but had to keep every aspect in mind. The vet explained that once we got things under control the cost should not be prohibitive. Between her Cushing's meds, her insulin, syringes, "dip sticks" etc. we broke it down to be @ $25.00/ month! Certainly do-able!!! I told him about the dogs I had heard of that had to be put down and he suspected that they may also have had diabetes that went untreated.
The vet explained to me that she would be on Lysodren for the Cushing's every day for a week( the "loading" phase) and then after another ATCH screen we would determine the dosage for the maintainance phase  which would most likely be one pill a week. He taught me how to give her the insulin injections that she would need every morning. She was such an angel baby as they had me practice on her with saline solution! He explained that we needed to check her urine every morning with a "dip stick" and explained how to read it and dose her accordingly. He also put her on a strict diet of W/D..no treats, no people food..W/D ONLY!  The first morning I tried to test her pee I wasn't very bright! I stood behind her, held the "dip stick" under her hoping she'd pee on it for me..well, I got a few drops, enough for a reading  but she wasn't very happy with me. I was telling a friend about it and she suggested, " Why not hold an old soup ladle under her and catch it?" DUH!! How obvious! After that, we used a small flat measuring cup, sort of slid it under her and she used it as her own little Doggy Bed Pan...sure works much better!!!!!
After just a few days on the Lysodren and insulin we noticed a HUGE improvement in her. She began to get perkier again, played with Murphy more and wanted to be with us like in the past. She was drinking less and the basement puddles were becoming less and less. 
After a week on the Lysodren her ACTH test showed she was in a normal baseline range and he didn't want her to take anymore Lysodren at all and be retested in 4 months. Her insulin needs were all over the map however..she'd level off at 9 units for a few days and then began to climb to a high of 15 units then go back down again . She will be going in for a blood glucose test in three weeks. Throughout all of this she seemed to be getting better. She would, of course, have days when she'd be more lethargic than others but on a whole she really seemed better to us.

I found a Cushing's group and a diabetes group on line and at first was very overwhelmed by it all. I didn't understand the terminology, felt everyone there knew what they were doing and we were still fumbling trying to get a handle on it all. 

Some of the Cushing's people told me NOT to treat her with Lysodren, others told me it was the best treatment..some told me the W/D was NOT the best food for her, others told me it was very good. Some people felt I shouldn't be giving her HumilinL (insulin) and the dipstick wasn't very accurate, some of the Cushing's people told me that some dogs only needed the initial loading of Lysodren and that was it, others told me she should always be on some sort of maintenance dosage.My head was swimming.  What was right? What was wrong? I am so very grateful for the advice and experience and friendship I've gained from others but finally concluded that what ever is working  for each individual pet is RIGHT. I have very much confidence in our vet and believe we are on the right path in treating Maggie. The accidents have stopped, she is eating and drinking normally again. She tires out quicker than she used to and sleeps a lot, but her coat is looking better, she smiles at us again and we feel very confident she is on the right track. 

 A few short weeks ago we thought she had received the kiss of death and talked about letting her go. We know now she will always have issues, she will always have special needs and the commitment we've made to do all we can to make her healthy and happy is for her entire lifetime...a commitment we have more than willingly made.

If I were to give anyone in our shoes a bit of advice..and admittedly, I'm a novice at all of this...it would be step back, take a deep breath, educate yourself as thoroughly as possible and reach out to others who are on the same journey. There are so many good people out there who understand and are willing to help you along the path. Neither Cushing's or Diabetes is a death sentence..scary at first, yes..... overwhelming at first, undeniably, but manageable DEFINITELY!

I'm more than happy to share photos of our zoo

The BIG gray cat is Dickens,

a photo of him posing 

and one of him "helping" with dishes..any idea how he got his name????

The black cat is Buster.his full name is Buster Dashboard..he got his name because when we got
him he was a teeny tiny ball of black fuzz...when we brought him home my husband wanted to 
hold him in the car because he was crying so much in the cat carrier..he somehow got out of his 
hands and climbed up under the dashboard of the car. No amount of coaxing, bribing with food 
or anything could get him out. My husband finally had to get the neighbor kid, who's nickname
is Buster, to come and help him take the dashboard out of the car to get him....this his name!

The tortoise shell cat is Chita...her full name is ChitaBitch...I guess that's rather
self explanatory isn't it???!!  She is the epitome of arrogance and 
has NO time for the other animals but absolutely LOVES Mom and Dad!

The beautiful orange cat is Sophie..she's waiting for us at the Bridge. We lost her last summer
after her owning us and us loving her for almost 14 years. We got her as an 8 month old when a
friend of mine was getting married and he couldn't have pets in his wife's apartment where he was
moving. He kept his former apartment for 2 extra months , paid rent for it just to be able to keep
her there because he hated to part with her and wouldn't take her to the shelter. He'd go and
visit her every day but she was so lonely so she came to live with us. He named her Eddie..not 
sure why as she was a she, but we renamed her Sophie. She was MY cat..very skittish around 
other people but me for a long time..I loved her so much and no need to tell you how hard it
was to say good bye. She's buried outside my kitchen window under a bridal wreath bush.

The two dogs are Maggie and Murphy. Murph is the golden colored one and will be 3 the end 
of August and an absolute pistol. We kept him in full coat ( I have a photo of that) for a while 
but now keep him short like Maggie..much much easier! A friend of mine breeds ShihTzu's. 
We live in Wisconsin and she did at one time but moved to Indiana several years ago. We 
decided we wanted another pup and contacted her. Long story short...she had a litter that was
all spoken for except one little male and if we'd take him we could have him for her vet costs..
we drove to Indiana one weekend to get him and he's been nothing but joy from day one! 
He turned out to be an Imperial ShihTzu and she could have got a small fortune for him but
knew we weren't interested in showing or breeding..just wanted another fur baby to love! 

And then my sweet, sweet Maggie Pie. She's almost all white with a bit of cream mixed in.
I'm sending you my favorite picture of her..where she is smiling from ear to ear. 
The picture is at the top of this page!!!!
That, obviously , was before she got sick.

This is one of her on the couch a few weeks ago. 

Just as Murphy is a complete little rascal,

Maggie is the sweetest, most gentlest dog imaginable. 
She is such a calm, good natured girl and so very, very sweet...
that's the best and most accurate way to describe her. 
She was actually given to me about 7 years ago.
I was at a meeting at someone's home and she was their dog.
She jumped into my lap and stayed their the entire evening. 
At the end of the meeting as we were getting ready to leave, 
the people who had her told me that they were actually looking
for a good home for her. They had 2 ShihTzu's and two Cavalier Spaniels 
and she wasn't getting the attention she needed ( my question was WHY NOT?)
but asked if I'd like to have her. I couldn't believe it! They packed her up and 
sent her home with me that very night!!!! She will be 11 on the 4th of July 
and I still can't imagine anyone giving her away. She is an absolute dream girl!
She is doing so much better of late...I'll post an update on her soon 
and fill everyone in..but she really is doing well.

So...that is our current zoo. Hope you enjoy their photos. Most people think we're nuts 
but we love them all so much and couldn't imagine life without them!  :-)

  Read More Stories about Other Diabetic Pets

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