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Diabetic pets can still live a dog’s life

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Tony and JeLynn Aycock’s miniature pinscher, Little Buddy, was diagnosed with diabetes and he has to take daily insulin injections.

NATCHEZ — Little Buddy doesn’t look like a diabetes patient, but thanks to consistent insulin injections given to him by loving owners, he can live a dog’s life to the fullest.

The 12-year-old miniature pinscher was diagnosed with canine diabetes in January.

Before the diagnosis, Little Buddy’s owner, JeLynn Aycock of Natchez, noticed his teeth looked decayed and he was drinking more water than usual. When Aycock brought Little Buddy to Veterinarian Dr. Robert Savant at Natchez Veterinary Clinic for a teeth-cleaning, a blood test was included for good measure.

After analyzing the bloodwork, Savant said that Little Buddy, or L.B., had canine diabetes.

“I was shocked,” Aycock said. “I had heard about cats being diabetic, but not dogs.”

The Aycocks give Little Buddy an insulin shot Thursday afternoon at their home in Natchez.

Aycock and her husband, Tony, began working with Savant to find the ideal insulin dosage for L.B.

Once the proper insulin dosage was found, Aycock said she could tell that L.B. was starting to feel better.

“Now he has a great quality of life,” Aycock said.

The Aycocks administer L.B.’s injections twice daily. Aycock said it was not difficult to fit the injections into their daily routine. She said L.B. gets an insulin shot in the morning when they get up, and again 12 hours later.

“I can give him a shot by myself,” Aycock said. “But (Tony and I) both do it.”

Aycock said they use treats to reward L.B. before and after the quick stick, which is administered by pulling the scruff of his neck.

“It is definitely doable,” Aycock said.

But L.B’s medical condition is one Savant said he is seeing more often.

Savant said 50 to 100 of his patients are diabetic. He said the reason that dogs are surviving with diabetes is two fold.

“We have way better diagnostics and better pet owners,” Savant said. “The owners notice things about their pets in a way people didn’t in the past, and they try to understand (the illness) and are willing to treat them.”

Savant said the prognosis is not grim for dogs with diabetes.

“If we can get it under control, find right insulin and have a dedicated pet owner, the dog can live close to a normal life,” Savant said. “For people who are on a limited budget, we try to find affordable (insulin treatments).”

Dr. Susan Eddlestone, a veterinarian at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, said diabetes differs in dogs and cats.

Eddlestone said there are basically two types of diabetes — dogs typically have type 1 diabetes, which means they don’t make enough insulin. Cats typically develop type 2 diabetes, which makes them resistant to insulin.

“And cats and dogs pretty much have same symptoms — drinking lots of water and increased urination,” she said.

Little Buddy’s insulin is administered twice daily. Insulin can range in cost, but many owners of diabetic pets can find a price range that works for their budget.

Eddlestone said a healthy diet can prevent cats from developing diabetes.

“Cats have a type of diabetes that is similar to people, which is due to obesity,” Eddlestone said. “The best way to prevent it is keep them from gaining weight.”

Eddlestone said to avoid feeding pets “people food” and to talk to a vet about what kind of pet food is best.

She said that some pet owners don’t want to face the responsibility of twice-daily injections, even though diabetes is a manageable condition.

“A lot of people euthanize animals when they are diagnosed with diabetes,” Eddlestone said. “But managing their care is not as much work as it is for people. Some people are intimidated by the process, but it’s a tiny needle. Overall, of all diseases to get, this is a very manageable one.”

Eddlestone said the worst-case scenario for diabetic pets is a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, which can lead to death.

Canines affected by diabetic ketoacidosis may experience lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, excessive thirst and bad breath.

Aycock said she could not imagine letting L.B. go just because of his diagnosis.

“I never considered that,” Aycock said. “I am an animal person.”

Aycock said her advice to pet owners who have received a diabetes diagnosis is to get informed.

“Talk with your vet, work with the insulin and see what happens,” Aycock said. “Don’t give up on your dog just because he is diabetic.”

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