Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Our dog is a Keeshond.  I will go  ahead and assume that most people reading this have no idea what a Keeshond is, it's ok- I understand.  
Keeshonden (the correct plural form of Keeshond) are a gentle, intelligent breed of dog that has been bred for companionship and as watchdogs- they are not a working or hunting breed.  

They are fluffy and furry and have a never ending smile.  They shed twice a year and a bit in between.  They have a long outer coat with a heavy, dense undercoat.  

Here are a couple of photos of our Gizmo:

Our boy is a bit camera shy, so getting photos of him is a challenge.  

Lately, he's been down a rough road.  

In late September 2015, he started to lose his ability to hold his urine through the night.  Then he started to vomit.  We knew this wasn't our boy. He never had these issues.  

A quick trip to our favorite vet was in order.  Not such a quick trip this time.  He would be staying for a little while.  He had pancreatitis and, it turned out- our sweet boy had diabetes.  We had no idea.
How does this happen?  Yes, he was a bit overweight.  But DIABETES?  What did we do- did we cause it?  Was this our fault?  The doctor assured us that it probably wasn't something we did.  Reducing his weight would be a good idea, but in his case probably was not a contributing factor.

He probably would have gotten there no matter whether he had been overweight and 'well-loved' or not.  It happens.

We learned how to care for a dog with insulin-dependent diabetes.  I insisted on home testing.  I wanted to be able to tell if he was in crisis.  (control freak much?  yes)

We settled in to a world of prescription foods, twice daily shots and occasional testing.  He was great.  Such a trooper through it all.  He stabilized quickly.  For a while.

Then his sugar got too high.  So we adjusted up.  And up.  And up.  wow, this is harder than it seems. 

I learned how to do a 'Curve' test at home.  For those of you who don't know, this is testing blood glucose levels every two hours over a 12 hour period like clockwork.  Mess it up and you're sunk.  No pressure.  But I did it!  (I was proud of myself, but not anxious to do those all the time)

He stabilized again.

Fast forward to Fall 2016

Now we have the issue of being too low.  Too low is worse than too high.  Well darn.  He is at 29, so I put corn syrup on his gums.  Test again in a little while.  Put more corn syrup on his gums and give him some food.  Still not much higher.  (now I am convinced he is seriously just messing with me).  Wait a bit longer, it comes up a hair more.

Now, if you aren't aware- blood glucose levels should between 100 and 250 or so.  Higher than 250 would be much less worrying than lower than 100 is.  Low blood glucose can cause more problems than high blood sugar over a short term.  Readings of 29 and 30 were very worrying.

By day 3 of low readings, he was acting very off. He was restless and his facial expression was one of distress.  He was asking us for help.  

I should also back up for a moment....at the time when he went low, we added a new health issue to his mix- Hypothyroidism.  His thyroid doesn't make enough of the hormone to balance his metabolism.  This has caused his beautiful fur to fall out in huge amounts.  His undercoat is basically gone in most places and his long overcoat is much thinner than it should be.  Probably not connected to his sugar imbalance, but worth mentioning.  

A couple of photos to show contrast in his coat from the 'before' photos above:

So back to our story.

Gizmo's sugar was low, not coming up and we took him to our vet.  They decided he was unstable enough to need to keep him so that they could try to stabilize his levels and get a handle on what was happening.  In addition to the low sugar, he was losing weight.  His new diet brought his weight down to a healthy range previously, but now he was losing weight that he shouldn't be.  He lost 3 lbs over the past two weeks.  He has now lost 10 lbs over the past year.  Combining the weight loss with the loss of fur, he looks and feels thin.  

We admitted him to the hospital at our vet for stabilization of his glucose and to run some tests.  They were able to get him stabilized over the course of the day and we brought him home that evening with instructions to test and call before each meal/insulin injection.  

He now has insulin tailored to the test each time he gets an injection.  I don't know if we will be able to learn how to tailor it ourselves or if we will need to call every day (what happens on the weekend?)

We are watching for ketoacidosis, where the body doesn't have enough insulin to control blood sugar and the body creates ketones as an emergency fuel source.  This causes the body's balance of electrolytes to be off (acidotic) and creates a life threatening situation.  

So, I am waiting for a call back from the vet to see how much insulin we give today. Also whether we need to catch urine and what the result of his T4 test was, which will tell us whether his thyroid meds need adjusting.

Just another day in the life of a dog mommy.

What are your experiences with a special needs animal?   Feel free to share stories in the comments below!

helpful links:

Keeshond Club of America

PetMD- Diabetes in Dogs

PetMD- Hypothyroidism in Dogs

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