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My story is about TammyTammy, my West Highland White Terrier, a neutered bitch. She is ten years old and was diagnosed as diabetic on September 1999. Although the diagnosis came as a great shock it was also a relief. I had been worried about Tammy for some time and we had taken her to the vets on three previous occasions. But I was not satisfied that we had got to the root cause of her problems. With hindsight I now know she presented with classic diabetes symptoms: thirst, frequent urination, extreme lethargy and always hungry. An infected wound in her paw would not heal despite two courses of antibiotics.

I just wanted my darling, fun-loving little pet back again. Here was a once mischievous, energetic bundle of busyness reduced to a very sad little dog. Quite by chance I read a magazine article about diabetes and it struck me like a blow. Of course, this was a list of Tammy's symptoms! I took her to the vet and told him I suspected she was diabetic. After testing her urine he told me her blood glucose was more than three times over the recognised normal level. I consulted another vet and she was admitted to the animal hospital. We had an anxious time while we waited for the tests to be completed. Thankfully, she had no liver or kidney damage. But she proved difficult to stabilise and we had quite a few hiccups along the way. She developed colitis as a result of putting her on a high fibre diet. She became sick and had diarrhea and ran a high temperature and was quite ill for a while. But the vital fact that Tammy had been neutered when young, greatly helped in her recovery and treatment.

Eventually, I had to learn to give her insulin injections. This proved to be my worst nightmare. While I do not mind receiving injections I hated giving them to my poor, sick little dog. I am still upset at the thought of the pain I inflicted on her a few times, as I made mistakes and was clumsy. Tammy was and is very forgiving and so far she has not held it against me. I still have sleepless nights over this problem and I dread the mornings, as I have to inject her every day at 8:30 AM. However, long last, after 12 days I was able to take Tammy home. But within a few hours she was back in the vets, she now had acute bronchitis ! I feel now that all the stresses and strains she had endured just made her susceptible to illness.

Once again we had another uphill struggle as the steroid drugs, which would have meant a quick recovery, are not safe for diabetic dogs. So I nursed her through this setback and she slowly improved, though she still coughs when stressed or excited.

My "white tornado"  (as my husband affectionately calls her) has changed drastically, she now spends a good deal of time looking for food and despite all my efforts she has little interest in life outside her indoor environment. She was a lifelong connoisseur of cats and loved to watch them as they strolled through the garden or down the paths. Tammy would run from the front to back of the house windows in order to follow their progress as they arrogantly and nonchalantly invaded her territory. I used to give her a ticking off for barking at the various invaders and pursuits that made up her day. Now I would give anything to have my noisy, happy, lovable wee pest restored to good health.

Still, it is not all bad. We have had some laughs. When I first tried to get a urine sample, Tammy gave me such a look of shocked outrage that I almost abandoned the attempt, as she made me laugh so much. She would slip away to the most inaccessible corners of the garden to pee and I would chase around in the cold and wet; while I am sure she was grinning to herself at the merry dance she had led me. However, two months down the line she has accepted the invasion of her privacy and freedom and knows what's expected of her when she sees me with her sample dish.

Three weeks ago Tammy had to have dental surgery, she had five teeth extracted. This caused a severe destablisation of her BG's and so far she has not settled down to anything approaching a settled reading. But the vet assures me that, given the traumatic time she has had things are not too bad.

Tammy is now on a very strict prescription diet. This consists of canned high fibre food mixed with dried high fibre meal. This is split into two meals a day, am and pm. Being prescription food it is very expensive, my vet does give discount, but here in N. Ireland we do not have much choice of suppliers. I would like to hear from other UK owners of pets with diabetes and how they manage their pet's food, medication etc. Particularly in N. Ireland as my hope is to try and reduce the costs of treating all dogs. Hearing from owners in NI would be great. The more people who are interested the better chance we have of reducing costs and helping each other. As a novice I know I have so much to learn and without Pets with Diabetes I would be in deep despair. It proved to be a lifeline for me and helped me to accept what I could and could not do for Tammy. Kind hearted people e-mailed me with words of comfort and hope when, in deep despair, I first accessed Pets with Diabetes. I thought Tammy had been given a death sentence now she was diabetic. I soon realised she was a lucky dog and had a fighting chance to live her life reasonably happily. Without the site I would have been really worried.

Tammy is still having problems with BG levels, her daily curve rises instead of falling. She is on a high dose of insulin for her size 9 IUs Caninsulin, but still her levels continue to rise. If anyone else knows anything about this problem I would be grateful as vets do not know why this happens.  Also, Tammy has developed a lump on side of neck which I was told is insulin which has "stuck" just under the skin and she may need an operation to remove it. Having just paid out over 600 in fees and operation in last three weeks. I am getting very worried as to how much more I am going to have to pay out.

All these problems take a toll on your emotions and the many little things which I would not have noticed before now cause worry. The fireworks for Halloween, for instance, caused such stress to Tammy she had to be sedated for three nights consecutively. These increase hunger and thirst and cause the dog to be wobbly and present symptoms of hypoglycemia. So it is a full time job at the moment until hopefully, she stabilises enough to be left alone for a few hours.

Footnote: Tammy is back in vets with seriously high BG's again, I hope she can be stabilised quickly

Contributed by Etta

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Contributed November 1999
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