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Killian (aka Rizzo and Killy Man)

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Killian is an American Pit Bull who was born on my bed along with his eight siblings. He was redder in color than the others and had a thin line around his neck that looked as if he were wearing a necklace. So his litter name became “Rizzo the Brooklyn Boy.”

A wonderful couple adopted Rizzo and, over the year that followed, he grew into a beautiful boy. We arranged play dates and celebrated his birthday at my home with his siblings, Toby and Zoey, who we had kept, along with Cinnamon, his mommy.

Unfortunately, the couple who owned Rizzo broke up and life as he knew it changed. It was then that we realized Rizzo was being kept in a basement with dirty water and no food. We brought him home, renamed him Killian and began working at creating a happy and full life for him.

On November 10, 2006, Killian began acting as if he were drunk. Mom, who would never condone underage drinking, wondered what was going on. Did the two brothers slip out for a quick one when she wasn’t looking?

Toby looked fine and sister Zoey sat with her halo glowing. Mom Cinnamon looked concerned and began hovering over him. Killian stumbled about and started to vomit. It was time to go see Dr. Dorton. The appointment resulted in a diagnosis of diabetes and Killian had to remain in the hospital because he was in ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening condition. He was very sick and remained in ICU for six days.

The hospital did not give any guarantee that Killian would make it but he did, and from then on, he would need insulin. The hospital had him on NPH human insulin and he did well but when he came home, our regular veterinarian, Dr. Dorton, put him on Vetsulin at one shot per day. I was thrilled at the prospect of injecting just once daily.

I was shown how to inject by pulling up the skin to make a “tent,” then going in from the side. I didn’t think I could do it and thought: this dog is going to die if these shots are completely dependent on me! A friend and nurse who lived in our neighborhood came by once daily to give the injection. When she did it, Killian didn’t even flinch! I think I was more afraid than Killian and he sensed my fear.

About ten days later, Killian developed large lumps, about the size of baseballs, in the areas where the injections were given. So back we went to Dr. Dorton, who diagnosed that Killian was having an allergic reaction to Vetsulin. He was put back on Novolin N at two shots per day, which meant I needed to learn how to inject him myself!

I watched my daughter-in-law give Killian the shot and again noticed that he didn’t flinch. She didn’t draw up his skin into a “tent” — she just picked up the fur and went in from the top. So I tried that way and it worked. Whatever works, works!

Testing Killian’s blood glucose (BG) level was similarly difficult for me. I bought the urine test strips that show both glucose and ketones and it was easy, just like testing pool water. But after a week, Killian decided that he didn’t want me collecting his urine. So when he saw me coming, he refused to urinate. I tried everything from hiding behind trees to hiding a cup under my shirt. Nothing worked.

I also had to learn about diet and how to use a blood glucose meter, which I bought at a local pharmacy. There are so many different meters available and most come with rebates. Large dogs often have elbow calluses and at 99 pounds, it was easy for me to draw blood from Killian’s. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as trying to get his urine! So I was off to a good start.

My next step was learning how to regulate him by discovering how to make his food and insulin work together. After trying various recipes I found Merrick’s Low Glycemic canned dog food and life became so much easier. I didn’t use any dry food as I found the increased carbs caused his sugars to increase. And he refused to eat W/D kibble.

After awhile, it became routine: shot and food every 12 hours. Thirteen months later, just when I finally had everything under control, he became sick again. On New Years Eve, 2007 (just five hours away from 2008), we spent the evening at an emergency hospital. Killian had pancreatitis, which is life-threatening.

When he returned home, I had to change his diet to provide for smaller, more frequent meals. Cooked chicken breast, brown rice, a little pure pumpkin, and some finely ground broccoli and cauliflower became his new diet.

Killian is doing well on the new regime and, at four meals daily, he seems to be keeping his blood sugar in a good range. He still gets two injections every day with two small meals in-between. I didn’t realize that pancreatitis was for keeps. Feeding him anything not in keeping with his new diet would push him right back into another attack of pancreatitis.

So now we’re dealing with diabetes and pancreatitis but every day is easier than the day before. And life with Killian is a pure joy!

Johanna & Killian



Diabetes diagnosed
November 2006.

Breed: American Pit Bull

Weight: 99 pounds

Insulin: NPH twice daily.

Monitoring: Home blood glucose testing.