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Cooper is a 12 year old mutt that I adopted from the pound 10 years ago. He is probably a cross between sheltie and either keeshound or Norweigan Elkhound - but that is strictly a guess. When I first adopted him, he had lots of problems with urinary tract infections. Therefore, when I stepped in a "puddle" four years ago I just assumed he had another infection. Boy was I surprised when the vet came back with a tentative diabetes diagnosis!!

At first I was only giving Cooper one shot a day. After consulting with an endocrinologist and having a 24 hour blood glucose curve done, we adjusted to 2 shots a day. He is soooo much better regulated on two shots a day. I still see my regular vet for almost everything, but if I'm having a real problem with his diabetic management, I can always go to the endocrinologist. I've probably don't that 3 times in 4 years.

Cooper currently receives his food and medication twice daily (at about 7:30). He receives 1 cup of canine w/d mixed with 1/4 can of friskies senior (he just loves that stuff) and 125 mg of chewable vitamin C (to avoid urinuary problems). He also is currently receiving 11 units of insulin at each feeding. I don't like to inject him if he hasn't eaten, and that is what makes the friskies so helpful. I mix it in with his food, and he loves it so much he ALWAYS eats it immediately. Cooper is sooo easy to inject that people can't believe it until they see it. While he is eating his meal I get his shot ready. When I'm ready, I call to him and he runs into the living room and lays down on the carpet with his belly in the air. He likes to get shot in his belly/chest area. As soon as I'm done, he runs back to finish his dinner. Part of the reason he is so happy to get the shot is because of conditioning I did early on. In the beginning, after each shot, I would give him 1/4 of a low fat hot dog as a reward. Boy did he love that! In fact, it became a problem! As soon as I would get the insulin out of the fridge he would go CRAZY with excitement - running around in the kitchen and barking his head off. He was driving me nuts! Finally I quit giving him the hot dog because he was making it miserable for me to prepare the shot! He eventually forgot about the hot dog, but his positive feelings about getting a shot have remained!

Cooper likes to walk with me and we often do three miles a day - depending on my level of motivation. I do not adjust his insulin to his exercise, nor do I do blood testing. Cooper has been fairly easy to manage. What works best for me is to take him to the vet every two or three months for a 12 hour blood curve. We look at his readings, and make a determination about his current insulin - whether to increase or decrease it. While not perfect, this has worked fairly well. After all - he has been diabetic for 4 years and is still spunky!

One BIG mistake I made was that I started to realize that I could save money by only going to the vet twice a day for two blood draws instead of doing the 12 hour curve. I looked at his curve and say that if I inject him at 7:30 am that his high was at a certain time and his low was at a certain time. So, I would just run into the vet every couple of months at those two times and see what his high was and his low and adjust accordingly. This was a great idea EXCEPT sometimes his highs and lows occur at different times even if his food and insulin were consistent! As a result, he wound up with too much insulin, and had an insulin overdose about 5 months ago. Fortunately I was home and immediately rushed him to the emergency 24 hour vet. One day and $500 later we were good as new - only a little poorer. Now I just spring for the 12 hour curve every couple of months. Trust me - it doesn't pay in the long run to try and skimp!

About 2-1/2 years ago Cooper started to go blind. It happened VERY rapidly. That was when he was still getting the hot dog. I would rip the hot dog up into little pieces, and throw them into the air, and he would catch them. I started to notice that he was having a harder time tracking the hot dog! Then, one day I was at a friends house with him. I took him outside to let him piddle. There was a three foot retaining wall that held up the yard next to the driveway. He was walking in the yard area, and he fell off the retaining wall. He landed with a thunk, and let out a scream that I didn't think he was capable of making! I was sure he had broken something, but he turned out to be fine. However, what really hit home was that he had walked off the edge of that retaining wall without noticing that the ground was ending! I took him to the vet within the next couple of days. I was then sent to an ophthalmologist. Within 2 months, he was basically totally blind. It was very rapid. I couldn't stand it and neither could he! He would walk into furniture, and was totally unwilling to walk around outside if not leashed. I paid about $2000 to have cataract surgery as soon as possible. Because of other problems, the ophthalmologist suggested he NOT get replacement lenses. As a result, he cannot focus his vision. I believe he has one focal point, and cannot adjust to close up or far away. So, he still couldn't catch a hot dog! But, his vision seems to be completely adequate. He runs around without a care in the world, and is only in danger of running into something if he is in an unfamiliar area that is really dark. For instance, one night while walking through our neighborhood in the dark he ran into somebody's recycling box on the curb. Other than that, he sees just fine. It was the best $2000 I ever spent. I can't emphasize enough how worth it it was!!!

When Cooper was first diagnosed I was totally overwhelmed. I stressed over every shot, and was sure I was going to accidentally kill him. If I could give advise to new people facing this it would be to hang in there! It will not always be as stressful as it is in the beginning. Because Cooper is so well regulated, his diabetes takes up about 2 minutes of my day. It is part of my routine, and will also become part of yours. Don't be afraid to consult specialists, such as an endocrinologist or an ophthalmologist. They may be more expensive than a regular vet visit - but you will walk away with the guidance and information you need to make things MUCH easier.

-- Contributed by Casey W.

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Contributed March 2001
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