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K9 Biographies / Stories A place for you to post your "story" about your dog, including details of diagnosis, treatment, and management of your dog's diabetes; other medical issues; diets; and any other history or information about your dog that you care to share.

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Old 12-07-2013, 04:45 PM
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Default Rena's Story from 2001 by Lynne - Inspiring story of a blind diabetic dog

Written in 2001

Rena is a mixed breed shepherd (spayed female) who is now 9 years old. She was diagnosed with diabetes at 8 years old and lost her sight to cataracts a few months later. She has lived with the disease for about 1-1/2 years now. She gets Humilin L twice daily at 8am and 8pm. Her dose is approximately 20 units, though it varies from 18 to 21 with the level of exercise we are getting that day (and seasonally.)

I feed her Purina Pro Plan, 1 cup in the morning with her shot and two cups in the evening between 6 and 7. In the morning I mix 1 brewers yeast /garlic tablet and a 400u vitamin E with selenium and 1 teaspoon psyllium fiber, and 1c water into her food. Every third day I also put in one chromium tablet of 100mcg. And so she won't feel slighted because the other animals are getting "the good stuff"- about a tablespoon of canned food (usually cat.) At night she gets dry food, 1 teaspoon psyllium powder with water and 1 tablespoon canned food. At some point every day she usually gets a dog biscuit.

Rena on the right with her friend Jet




Rena is an intelligent and very active dog. We have no set exercise schedule but she is able to run and "snoof", swim and play as much as she wants. I am fortunate to live in a rural area and am self employed so she and her buddy Jet (female chow/Border Collie) spend all day, everyday with me. We go out for an all day hike at least once a week often two days. On these days Rena gets less insulin and about 1 c of crunchies when we stop to eat lunch. I also watch her for signs of slowing on these hikes and she gets a biscuit or other treat if she is lagging. I can tell this is a sugar problem because when she feels good she is in the lead. She is also able to accompany us on periodic backpacking trips.

Because I am able to be with Rena so much, I do more monitoring by observation than any other method. I watch her water intake (and Output!), and I pay attention to her mood and activity levels. I still take a blood glucose reading occasionally, about once every two weeks. I take that when she has her daily low -between 4 and 6 pm. I draw blood from a vein - usually one in a front leg . I do this to see if we are in the ballpark according to the numbers.

The vet is 100 miles away (like I said, this is a rural area) and she has been great. I can call anytime I have a question. Rena now goes in about once every 6 months, we check glucose levels and meters against each other. The vet gives Rena the once over. That's all so far.

When Rena was first diagnosed she had lost about 15 pounds in a matter of weeks. She was one skinny dog by the time I got her to the vet. A few years earlier she had some incontinence which was the result, it appeared, of drinking too much water. I took her to a different vet because I was concerned it might be diabetes. He did some testing and said it wasn't diabetes but that she was addicted to water. He used different words but that was the gist of it. In retrospect that was her "honeymoon" period.

Rena was difficult to stabilize. We started with a dose of Humilin L of 7u and worked up from there. I struggled with what kind of food to give her. As quality food is not readily available close by I tried a few different kinds before settling on Pro Plan.

About 4 months after she was diagnosed Rena developed cataracts -- it seemed to happen very quickly. At that point I took her to Salt Lake City to a canine ophthamologist. Her diabetes was not yet stable so an operation to remove the cataracts was not really an option. Fortunately, my Vet also referred me to a diabetes specialist that same week. I did these appointments in the wrong order going to the Eye specialist first, but I was so upset about Rena losing her eyesight that I reacted more to that than the diabetes.

The specialist was wonderful (Dr. Kris Muscari) she spent 2 hours with me, explaining the disease, teaching me how to draw blood for bg readings and working out a diet to try. I had been running to the vet once a week before that for a bg reading - a grueling trip 100 miles away (one way) over a 10,000 foot pass in the Winter! By that point Rena was up to about 35u insulin and still losing weight. I thought she was a goner. We tried Eukanuba glucose control for a few months at that point on a free choice feeding schedule. Free choice in a multi animal household did not work. I couldn't afford to feed all the animals the high price prescription food but they all wanted it. Rena still was losing weight. I switched to Pro Plan then because she needed more calories. We backed way off on the insulin and began the process again raising it every two weeks until Rena stabilized about 8 months after diagnosis.

Stabilized is a relative term. It wasn't that we found the Magic number of units of insulin and the correct diet and nothing changed after that. I thought it would be like that. Living with diabetes and treating diabetes is as much art as a science especially when you are interpreting the signs and symptoms across species lines. There's quite a bit of "winging it" and balancing activity versus inactivity and caloric intake. We live a non-traditional lifestyle and setting a rigid schedule is not practical. It has been possible to work Rena's diabetes treatment into our lives and to continue on.

As for Rena, she has adjusted to being nearly blind amazingly well. It was awful at first because she ran into things and hurt herself. I seriously considered putting her down. I thought her quality of life would be irretrievable. I was actually grieving over this.

In about 8 weeks she began to get a feel for life around home. Our daily routine includes crossing an irrigation ditch on a 12" plank. She fell in once or twice at first but now she can run across it. For hiking we have gotten her a set of boots. We have cactus here and they are not always easy to avoid. The boots also help Rena avoid lacerations from rocks and sticks she isn't able to see. We now call them her magic boots because when she has them on she thinks she is invincible. Rena always could hike the pants off us. She would go all day and still be perky.

Our other dog, 3 years her junior never could keep up with Rena. We went through a year or more of reduced activity but now Rena is back almost as strong as before and at the end of the day, stronger than the rest of us -as long as we keep her sugar levels within reason.

-- Contributed by Lynne
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Old 12-29-2013, 12:39 AM
Riliey and Mo Riliey and Mo is offline
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Default Re: Rena's Story from 2001 by Lynne - Inspiring story of a blind diabetic dog

Thanks for posting

I have a question.

Why do blind dogs go upstairs easily with practice but they can, t go downstairs. I have sometimes an elevator but when the power goes out we use the stairs.. Riles is very good at going up them but he has a big problem going down stairs.

Is this a fear thing, who knows how to get their dog to go down the stairs, anybody?

Mo
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Old 12-29-2013, 05:28 PM
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Default Re: Rena's Story from 2001 by Lynne - Inspiring story of a blind diabetic dog

I don't know the answer Mo, but my guess is that it's just generally easier to go up stairs as you can reach with your foot or paw until you find the step. Even for people, going downstairs is more difficult. Blind, it would be easy to overstep the first stair and go over the edge.

When Chris first became blind, he did a couple of absolutely stunning leaps up to get onto the bed. Front paws neatly tucked, nice arch... unfortunately, he was not in front of the bed at the time... we eventually put the mattress on the floor so he could step up instead. Kind of the same problem going down stairs I would guess.

Chris also did better with curbs, and my guess is that there were smell and/or temperature changes he could sense that wouldn't be present with steps inside the house.

Natalie
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Old 12-29-2013, 05:52 PM
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Default Re: Rena's Story from 2001 by Lynne - Inspiring story of a blind diabetic dog

Mo: I think Holli taught Decker how to go downstairs and he did just fine.

Since Jenny is a 7 pound diva, I carry her down but make her run up
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Old 12-29-2013, 07:48 PM
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momofdecker momofdecker is offline
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Default Re: Rena's Story from 2001 by Lynne - Inspiring story of a blind diabetic dog

Hi Mo. I read your question earlier but have not had time to get on the computer until now and the auto correct on my phone drives me crazy....

Anyway, Decker did do well going both up and down stairs. We never really taught him either - but when his vision was declining we did play hide and seek type games and included stair navigation with commands (up and down) in the play. His mobility was decent at that time. Don't know if it really helped or if he was just such as stubborn dog that not much was going to slow him down.

We did have problems with him getting too excited and overshooting the first step at times. Mostly the deck steps outdoors - like when our older dog would go running out after a squirrel or something like that. Decker wanted to keep pace and would go running trying to follow. But he'd forget about the stairs and we'd try to hold him back so he would hit the first one and then he'd be fine. He was so big and stubborn though that there were times I could not get the door open without him running out and he was too strong for me to hold back. Even when he did overshoot - when his mobility was decent he was able to correct himself going down.

Here are a few videos:

This one was actually after his mobility had gotten really bad and we started him on the prednisone to relieve enough inflammation (spinal compression) to help him walk again. He had been unable to go up or down stairs on his own for some time but after only a couple of doses of pred he went down the stairs. You can see his front right paw knuckle just a bit and that his rear legs are off but he still manages to go down.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_4gy6lONE8

In this video you can see how he's a bit excited and misses the location of the first stair - he ends up along the railing and then corrects himself. He studders up and down that first step a couple of times before going down.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iPqBKOqdpE

One more - here he bumps his nose on the chair and again on the shelf before going outside. But he seems to know right where the top of the steps are. Then he seems to know right where the gait is but trips over a toy on the ground getting there. Don't know if he had limited shadow vision or just really good mapping of his environment?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbU69b8kHNc

Having Kinser around likely helped him as well. Hope you are able to find a way to motivate Riley into going down if you are comfortable with it. When we had to move to using a ramp to get Decker in and out of my vehicle he would go up with minimal encouragement - but coming down took a lot more encouragement. We used pounce cat treats to keep him moving until he gained confidence. We also found him stuck on our basement stairs (which are open stairs) a couple of times. There are not a lot of stairs but I think the openness freaked him out a bit. Never stopped him from trying to get down to those yummy cat treats though - LOL!
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Holli & Decker // diagnosed November 5th, 2011 // Journeyed to the bridge January 26th, 2013, surrounded by his family at home // 9 years old // Levemir insulin // Hypothyroid // C1-C5 cervical spinal lesion // weight 87 lbs // Run with the wind my sweet boy. Run pain free. Holding you close in my heart till we meet again!
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Old 12-31-2013, 01:55 AM
Riliey and Mo Riliey and Mo is offline
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Default Re: Rena's Story from 2001 by Lynne - Inspiring story of a blind diabetic dog

Thanks for the replies. We still have power but r path is blocked with downed trees. His boots r slipping over the ice, he, s going through the snow. 10 dogs r peeing in this one small grassy area lol.. my best option is to become a snow bird, travel south somewhere in november, return in april. I cant depend on the power here. Too much snow over at the house. Power went out last summer for 3 days just after my hip surgery. Riles needed help getting down the stairs. So far with this storm he, s a real trooper. Takes 15 minutes getting his boots and jump suit on then 2 secs to throw them off at the first good smell lol.
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