• The Well-Trained Dog

One Pet Owner's Journey With Canine Diabetes


Shelby is a happy go-lucky kind of dog. The 10 to 11-year-old Terrier mix (with a wannabe Labradoodle nose) lives with his owner, Anita Arnold, and two other dogs at their home in Roanoke. But early this spring, something changed-Shelby starting urinating in the house. There could be many medical or behavioral reasons for this but his owner says there were other signs something was amiss.

“By May, Shelby had the excessive thirst, water drinking and urination and weight loss. He also was showing agitation.”

A quick blood test at the vet’s office revealed Shelby had diabetes.

Arnold says the treatment plan included two injections of Vetsulin (canine insulin) twice a day with his meals. But she had to make other changes as well.

“I cut out all treats, except Nature Logic, pure beef lung/all protein, maybe once a day. He has remained on the same food, with some fish oil at times. We keep a strict schedule on feeding times, which most dog owners do as well -- he needs to have his Vetsulin every 12 hours --- basically 7am and 5pm, or within an hour in that range. We have short walks around the front yard, and now he can venture to the fenced back yard on his own.”

While some humans with diabetes check their insulin levels by pricking their finger or some other method several times a day, Arnold monitored Shelby’s sugar levels by collecting his urine.

“Basically, I had to capture his urine using a soup spatula type spoon, then would dip in a test strip, and record a pattern /chart for the vet to determine how he was accepting and reacting to the new insulin injections. The vet reviewed the results for a couple weeks.”

The first few weeks were difficult and things went from bad to worse, Arnold admits.

“Shelby seemed to have withdrawn, depression type experience. He lost weight, his fuzzy fur and confidence. He just didn't feel well for some time, and began losing weight a few weeks before he was diagnosed.

The first two weeks monitoring his sugar levels was a challenge for he and I with capturing his urine-- following him around while walking on a leash with a large soup spoon and catching the urine, testing with the color coded test strips, learning to be confident with giving him injections by myself and keeping our confidence up.

After a couple weeks, he also started losing his vision. It was heartbreaking for me, as my other two dogs knew there was something wrong and Shelby was bumping into furniture, walls, and grills and was afraid to walk outside.

I worked with him a lot over the summer, and he started gaining weight, gaining confidence and learning with a stronger sense of smell and sound to get around. He can see some, or acts like he can see better, and has learned to follow shadows and sound. I was also unsure of his overall health during the first few weeks, as he seemed depressed and of course I was worried he may get worse, but he got better !!”

And she kept in regular contact with her vet.

“After the diagnosis, we went to the vet weekly, or three times for the first month to keep monitor on his overall levels. One of those visits was a full day, so the vet could check his sugar levels every hour or so to confirm a pattern of his reaction to the insulin.

The full day was hard on Shelby. He stressed and seemed to get worse, but overcame -- after we established his daily insulin amount, he leveled off and calmed down and got stronger each day.”

In the future, Shelby only needs to see the vet for his annual checkup.

Arnold says with all the ups and downs that 2020 has brought, she finds a silver lining in the diagnosis.

“Shelby is so grateful towards me--- shows his appreciation and much more content and calm with his sugar levels evened out. Even though we've been thru down times the past six months, with his diabetes diagnosis, and I was laid off from my job this summer --- it gave me time to focus on his care, and help him learn mobility through the sense of smell, booping his nose, and sound.

I'm very proud of Shelby , myself, and my other two dogs , for hanging together. I was so anxious and worried about giving him injections, but with practice and encouragement we have overall done great and of course, I hope Shelby continues to live a few more years as a happy, loving, fuzzy spoiled dog.”

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