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Sam Sam is a five and a half year old neutered male Miniature Schnauzer.  This is his experience with diabetes.

In 1992 I got a Miniature Schnauzer puppy as a pet from a backyard breeder. This was not my first Miniature Schnauzer, but had been several years since I had one due to job changes and moving. Time for another one as they are the best. I named him Sam. He was a wonderful puppy and very typical of all the puppy stories you have heard. Cute as all get out. Everything went well until in October of 1992 when Sam was about ten months old. He was very easy to housebreak and completely housebroken by about four months of age. Then one day he started urinating all over the house. By the second day I noticed he gulped water, draining the bowl every time I filled it up. My first thought was a bladder infection, so off to the vet we go.

After Sam the tests were run the vet told me Sam was diabetic. The vet gave me a lot of background and what to expect. Mostly that it would be very expensive to get him stabilized -- about $3,000 the first few months. Actually it came to just over $4,000. The vet advised me that the best thing to do was maybe consider putting Sam to sleep. This news was hard to handle to say the least. I got upset and packed Sam in the car and drove about 100 miles to the Veterinary School at the University of California at Davis for a second opinion. My vet's diagnosis and prognosis was correct.

I went back to my vet with the decision that Sam would get the best care, treatment, and life I could give him. For me it was the best choice and has worked out exceptionally well. There have been some rough times, including two grand mal seizures during the first six months after diagnosis.  But now after five years those times aren't quite as overpowering as they were at first.  I think one of the most often questions I get asked about a diabetic dog is the cost involved. The cost is not cheap, but I thought I'd give a brief summary of my experience. These are my typical costs now that Sam is stabilized.  Yours may differ somewhat as well as your decision.

For Sam, the total for supplies per day is about $1.50 (that's about $45 per month).  Here's how it breaks down:

  1. Insulin (Humulin U) $17.00 per vial (1000 units) - 10 units twice a day is $.60 per day. Although the bottle will last 50 days, according to the manufacturer it is best to throw away the unused portion 30 days after opening, and I do.
  2. Syringes (3/10th cc, Ultra-fine) are $20.00 per box of 100 or $.20 each. Twice a day is $.40.
  3. Urine test strips (Keto-Diastix) are $12.00 per bottle of 50. That's $.24 each. I generally test twice a day three days a week.  But if the dog isn't well-regulated and daily testing is done, that's $.48 per day.

As you can see the cost for supplies isn't that much. Where the big expense occurs is when Sam has to go to the vet every 4-6 months for a check-up.  The vet visit is $25.00, plus four blood glucose tests at $8.00 each. Sometimes it is necessary to do the tests over a 24 hour period. If so, add another three tests plus over-night. Also, we have various blood work done to monitor kidneys, liver, etc. -- so the total vet bill for one of these visits is close to $300. I have a glucose monitor at home, but I rarely use it as it is difficult to draw blood from Sam. A pin prick doesn't work like in a human. I have to draw blood from a leg vein. I did this initially, but I think now that I have more experience with the urine test strips and learning to be more attuned to his moods it isn't necessary.

There is a huge investment in time and dedication. Every morning at 7AM Sam is fed and gets his insulin. At 2PM he's fed again, and at 7PM he is fed and gets insulin again.   I have to time my schedule around his. I can't leave the house before 8AM and I have to be back by 2PM and again by 7PM. Not a problem for me personally, but may be an important consideration for others.  He likes to go in the car and I do take him weather permitting. He loves motels as he has learned that at least there he can sleep on the bed. Also, there is quite a struggle if I want to go somewhere as no one wants to inject the insulin. Piece of cake actually, but you know some people and needles.  On the rare times I go somewhere and can't take him, he has to be boarded at the vet. I have done this only twice in five years, for four days each time. My vet has a technician there twenty-four hours a day. Not many vets maintain a round-the-clock clinic.

Sam has an eye exam twice a year ($18.50 each time) as most dogs develop cataracts the first year or so after being diagnosed. My veterinary ophthalmologist is still amazed that Sam doesn't have cataracts.  He says that the absence of cataracts is because Sam is so well regulated. I hope so as it means so much that I have done right by Sam. Maybe we've just been lucky.  I have inquired into cataract surgery.  It is $1,500 for both eyes and lens implants -- it is not cheap by any means plus two months of very intensive and dedicated after care. Right now I'm almost positive that if the time comes I will have it done. I will have to reassess that decision based on Sam's overall health and age, and it may not be worth putting Sam through it all.  There are many blind dogs, and I haven't heard of one that hasn't adapted well.

Sam eats a good reliable brand of dog food -- one that has good production controls to monitor the ingredients. This is so that the calories are the same for each feeding amount from bag to bag whenever you open a new bag. The brand of dog foods we  used at first were not consistent, and we had big problems with regulation. It's good advice any way, but with a diabetic dog you need to learn to read the label on dog food. There is usually an 800 number to call. Some brands contain molasses and sugar beat pulp. If you balance the dogs calories with the insulin and change to another brand with out the added sugar, you may be giving too much insulin which will result in hypoglycemia. The vet prescribed a well known brand of dog food high in fiber. Sam hated it, and it was a constant struggle and begging to get him to eat it. He eats with relish now. I do add fiber from a health food store (read the labels because some contain sugar). The fiber is supposed to even out the digestion process so that the blood sugar stays more level. Sam does get carrots as a treat and a small biscuit before bed time.

Sam gets a lot of exercise. He'll play until he drops if I let him, but I make him rest after say 10-15 minutes of really intense play. After Sam's diagnosis and the vet's prognosis that he probably wouldn't live very long I decided to get another dog to ease my pain and maybe help him. I looked at a lot of litters, and being much smarter now I asked many questions. I didn't like what I saw or heard. I decided to get a female and breed my own. Luckily I got a little girl from a show breeder and it was just what Sam needed. And I got involved in the Dog Show World.

When Momma Dog had her first litter Sam wouldn't go anywhere near the doorway to where the whelping box was kept. Wide detour. Not until the puppies were about six weeks old and started to play did he get near. Something new to play with for him, I guess. Most of the times he was ever so gentle and awed. Sometimes if it looked like he may get a little too rough Momma Dog would step between Sam and the pups. He would just roll over and the puppies would pile on him and pull his beard. Great fun. He loved it. Best Puppy Sitter ever. Always is a gentleman and first to greet visitors at the door and bring them his toys just in case they want to play.

In closing I have to mention that with diabetes in such a young dog all professional veterinarian opinion I have received is that it is hereditary and occurs quite often in Miniature Schnauzers. If anyone has a dog diagnosed with diabetes I urge you to tell the breeder you got the dog from and work with that breeder  - make the dog's medical records available as well as give the breeder an opportunity to get a second opinion at their expense. In most cases, I truly believe that a responsible breeder will have the parents and all their offspring spayed or neutered. May not be that clear cut, but for me I will do so without hesitation.

Summary: daily costs for supplies are not that much, but dedication of time is of the essence. Rewards have been great.  So all in all my decision worked out best for us. I wouldn't trade a day with Sam in my life for a million. Best Buddy. Best Dog.

Contributed by Ben L.


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Contributed January 1999
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