|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!