Dog diagnosed with diabetes: is there an app for that?
July 28, 2016 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Our beloved 14-year-old Boston terrier Gus was just diagnosed with diabetes.

After several weeks of unexplained weight loss, we returned home from a 10-day vacation to find him looking basically like a skeleteon. We were already working with the vet to try to determine why he was losing weight, but this sudden weight loss led to an immediate hospitalization for 48 hours so they could stabilize his fluids and create a base glucose curve. He was released this morning, I learned how to give injections this afternoon, and now we move forward with life on the schedule of a diabetic dog.

The last question about this was posted in 2014, so I am looking for tips and experience of anyone who has cared for a diabetic canine (or feline), and I am specifically wondering if there is an iOS app we can use to track his injections, his meals and other factors or behaviors. Now that he's on insulin our vet's first priority is to get some weight back on him (he's lost about 1/3 of his average body weight in the past 6 months!!!).
posted by Brittanie to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have cared for 2 diabetic dogs, one currently still with us. IANAV

It's not as scary as it seems at first. There are a couple of important points: Never give an injection without the pup having food at least five minutes of the shot (e.g., don't give the shot and then feed him an hour later.) We tend to do the opposite -- feed him and then wait about an hour to give the shot. We set a timer to remind us to give the shot. Eat first, make sure he doesn't vomit, and then the shot. You don't want to do shot then food and have him vomit and then have the insulin in his system and not the food. Vomiting in the beginning of treatment is normal. Our vet said it was better to not have the insulin than to have it without food.

Let the shot warm up a little before you inject. The refrigerated insulin is uncomfortable for them, so let it get room temperature before you inject.

We were crazy anal about the times we gave the shots with the first dog. We literally changed our entire lives around to make sure one of us was home at 7am and 7pm to give the shots. However: with the 2nd, we are a little more lax. As long as the dog is stable, we don't get crazy about the 12-hour windows. For example: We had a wedding last weekend so fed and gave him the shot at 3:00 so that we could go to the wedding and not have to rush home to give him a shot. He's in great health.

Make sure you get the glucose curves as often as the vet recommends. It may take a month or two to figure out the correct unit dosage for the insulin. This is normal. The dog will stabilize very quickly and return to pretty much normal.

You can tell when their insulin may need to be adjusted. Excessive drinking and peeing over several days is the first and surest sign that insulin levels are off. Don't freak out if one day he seems to drink more than the day before. Just watch for development of unusual patterns. Unless the dog is terribly frail and sick from the diabetes, it's not a leave-the-house-in-the-middle-of-the-night emergency to get an glucose curve if something seems off for a few days.

Our first dog with the sugars got terribly ill until he was diagnosed. Bounced back very quickly and lived for two years in good health. He eventually lost the fight, but he was 15 when the insulin just didn't work for him anymore. But he was 15.

Our little guy now has been getting the shots for three years and no one would ever know he has it. He is peppy and energetic and eats and drinks like the proverbial pig.

Oh -- and make sure you vary the places where you give him the shot so that he doesn't develop a callous from getting the injection in the same place every single time. We usually do the skin on the back of the neck or around the shoulders.

Hope this helps. Gus if stable should be able to live out his normal lifespan with the injections.
posted by archimago at 10:04 AM on July 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I do not know, but I bet the helpful people at K9Diabetes forums would. My parents had a sweet dog get diagnosed with diabetes and they relied on this forum to guide them through it. He lived with the disease for quite a few years.
posted by notjustthefish at 10:11 AM on July 28, 2016

Gus is a handsome boy! I'm wondering if you're referring to the question I wrote about my dog Max in 2014.

Everything archimago says is spot-on. In my question, we started him at 3 units twice a day. After weeks of taking him to the vet and his levels still being a mess (and him still drinking and peeing) at 6 units twice a day, the vet told me to get urine strips and adjust insulin upward every few days until the urine strips showed a trace amount of glucose in the urine. I was overwhelmed but I found this amazing pamphlet online from another vet clinic that helped me a lot. Max stabilized at 11 units in the morning and 12 at night - which lines up with the "half a unit per pound of weight for each dose" guideline. As Gus gets his weight back, his insulin will go up.

We got very good with knowing Max and when he was "off." We also could be flexible with the 12-hour window without any repercussions.

Max lost his sight as a complication. Our vet advised us not to get the cataracts removed due to his age. After a bumpy patch, he got used to being blind and people who visited our house had no idea he couldn't see.

Our Max passed away 2 weeks ago today at the age of 14/15ish. He lived 22 months past his diagnosis, shocking us all. He was a good dog.
posted by kimberussell at 11:15 AM on July 28, 2016

My dog's not diabetic, but I do have an app recommendation. We have a whistle (the old, non-gps kind), and you can add timed medication reminders that will show up as alerts on your phone. I have a daily reminder and two different monthly reminders, and they work perfectly. There's also a notes section of the app, and multiple people can be registered as owners of the dog and will all get alerts via the app (plus, it will alert you if the other person checks off that they gave the dog his meds).
posted by snaw at 11:25 AM on July 28, 2016

The right tool for the job might also depend on how hands-on and proactive* you want to be in managing your dog's diabetes. When I had a diabetic cat, I pretty much lived on the Feline Diabetes Message Board. I'm not sure what the situation is for dogs but after doing a LOT of research, I found that the FDMB members (many of who had a long-term interest in caring for diabetic cats) had a much deeper and up-to-date understanding of the disease than your standard general vet who saw maybe a handful of cases a year. The initial insulin dose my first vet prescribed would've put my cat into hypoglycemic shock, so I went with the protocol that FDMB developed, and they ask members to use very specific standardized tracking tools intended to make it easier to help each other out.

It's not for everyone, the FDMB protocols were very detailed and time-consuming, it took a lot more effort than just going with what the vet recommended, I know plenty of people who thought it was going insanely overboard, and the spreadsheets, good gods, the spreadsheets... If you're comfortable with your vet's treatment plan, your needs will be somewhat different, it's just something else to keep in mind.

*That sounds judgey, it's not meant to be, only recognizing that there's a point where further intervention is "not worth it anymore" and that equation is different for each person.
posted by yeahlikethat at 11:57 AM on July 28, 2016

Also, one of the things that really struck me during the whole diabetic-cat experience was how similar we mammals all really are. Maybe one of the many apps for diabetic humans would work for you, though you'd have to find some way to disable/account for different blood glucose ranges between species.
posted by yeahlikethat at 12:10 PM on July 28, 2016

Response by poster: kimberussel, your question was the one I was referring to. I am so sorry about the recent loss of your Max.
posted by Brittanie at 1:45 PM on July 28, 2016

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