Category Archives: Litter 8 – Nov 2017

Caring for your diabetic dog

Managing long-term health conditions in your pets

Just as with human medicine, animal medical care is advancing all the time.  We are constantly improving what we can manage and how long animals with long-term conditions can be kept alive.  The great thing is that any advances in animal care may well be transferred to human medicine, meaning that we all live even longer – great!

I have already talked about Luna in relation to her last litter and written about what went wrong.  Since then, Luna has been diagnosed with diabetes and I thought it would be useful to review the management of this condition so far.

Symptoms of diabetes

These are similar to the symptoms of type 1 diabetes in humans, namely:

  • excessive thirst
  • excessive urination
  • lethargy or depression
  • unexplained weight loss

Luna has always been a ‘thirstier dog’ than my other dogs.  She has also been more prone to urine infections and has been the one more likely to have the occasional accident overnight.  She has had periods where she will suddenly produce a huge amount of urine in the house.  These symptoms were not hard to manage and I just thought that she had slightly poorer bladder control, compared with the other dogs.

When she was pregnant last year, both the drinking and urination seemed to get worse.  I was a bit unhappy about this, but she had no other symptoms and seemed generally in good health otherwise.  However, after she had gone through the delivery and subsequent operation, she had a period of seeming better than before.  This was followed by a gradual decline in her demeanour.  She became less lively and more subdued.  It was hard to pinpoint, but over the course of a few weeks we became aware that something wasn’t quite right.

Over Christmas, I realised that Luna was losing weight.  Again, it was quite a slow process and quite subtle, but by the time we were into the Christmas holidays, I knew she wasn’t right.  So on 27th December, I took her into the vet’s, expecting the worst.  Her weight had gone from 17-18 kgs to 15.95 kgs.  Straight away, the vet knew it was diabetes; there was glucose in her urine and a blood test confirmed it.

Initial management – routine is the key

So there we were, learning how to inject our dog, using a teddy bear to practice on!  It was a bit daunting, but we were given a ‘medipen’ which seemed pretty foolproof.  Well Chris managed to bend the needle on one of his practices, but we felt reasonably confident about having a go.

We were told that routine is the key to managing diabetes successfully in a dog.  So it would be no good giving her a quick walk round the block some days and a great long hike at the weekends.  Or putting down food for her to pick out when she wanted.  Or giving her treats throughout the day.

Fortunately for me, I also thrive on routine.  I get up and feed the dogs at 7am, every day, more or less.  I then walk them for around an hour, off lead, every day, roughly an hour after breakfast.  I used to feed them again at 4pm, but Luna must have her injections every 12 hours, with food.  So now they are fed at 7pm as well.  That was the biggest change.  It is also the hardest to stick to, since if we go out for a meal, or to the cinema, or I have a governors’ meeting and no-one else is in, then the routine must change slightly.  But we are really lucky, because I am around most of the time and able to set my own routine.

Giving the injections every 12 hours has become as routine as cleaning my teeth.  Fetch kit from fridge, open and screw on needle, turn dial to required number of units, remove cap. Wait for Luna to finish her (special diabetes) food, grab a handful of skin on the scruff of her neck and jab in the needle.  Press the button, wait 5 seconds and rub it.  Give her a kiss and tell her she is a special girl.  Remove needle and put in sharps bin.  Return kit to fridge.  Check there are plenty of needles and insulin phials.  Order more of these and/or sacks of food as required.  (I recommend Pet Drugs Online for this)

Of course there has been the odd mishap.  I have stuck the needle into my finger or thumb a few times.  Bent the needle once or twice.  Squirted the insulin onto my hand instead of into her neck.  Panicked that there isn’t enough left in the phial and when I should change it over.

Stabilising the condition

Luna immediately improved following the diagnosis.  She went back to her normal self; happy and lively.  Her weight slowly returned to normal, over the next few weeks.  She stopped drinking and weeing to excess.  Fantastic.  We were told it could take a few months to stabilise the condition and to sort out the correct dosage of insulin.  Luckily, we have a good routine and this seems to have really benefitted Luna, as she has been doing really well.

After a couple of weeks, Luna spent the whole day at the vet’s having something called a ‘glucose curve’ done.  They did the equivalent of a pinprick test on her every hour and looked at the level of glucose in her blood.  This told them whether she was on the correct dosage.  Then a month later, she went back for a blood test, which showed the levels over a longer period.  This will be reviewed again 3 months later.

Hypo or hyper?

When the glucose levels are not stable, diabetics can become hypo- or hyperglycaemic.  In people, this is a concern and diabetics generally check their blood glucose levels throughout the day and change their food intake accordingly.  However, in dogs this is less variable, so less of an issue.  We were told that if her glucose level was ‘out’ she would generally seem unwell and we should take her into the vet’s to be checked and treated accordingly.  Fingers crossed, nothing has happened, yet.

One variable Luna has to cope with is her agility training and competition.  We made the decision to continue with this, as she really enjoys it, it keeps her fit and mentally stimulated and is part of her normal life.  She was so happy to be back!  She really loves running around with Chris.  I tend to find that a few hours after a lesson, she will come up to me and tell me that she is feeling in need of a ‘little something’.  I give her a handful of her normal food and she is fine.  Simple!

Other long-term conditions

In addition to managing Luna’s diabetes, I monitor Sunny’s arthritis.  She has spent her life jumping around after balls and doing agility (she retired aged 10), so it’s not surprising that she has a bit of stiffness in her shoulders.  She is on an anti-inflammatory for this and I make sure that she has regular check-ups.

Then the cat also suffered from pancreatitis last year and has had some ongoing kidney issues, for which he has a specialist renal diet.  All good fun!

As you can see, there are many ways in which we monitor and care for our pets, thanks to the ongoing development of veterinary medicine.  Personally, I don’t believe animals should be kept alive at any cost.  Sometimes we have to make the difficult decision, because it is the right thing to do for our pets, however painful this is for us.  When is the right time is a useful guide to this process.  But for something like diabetes, the prognosis is really good.  I am indebted to MK Veterinary Group for their care.

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Health Tests – why bother?

Can you guarantee a healthy dog?

I feel such a fraud.  I have been writing huge volumes on this website to promote my ‘Beautiful Border Collies, bred for better temperament and health’.  I have generated a good-sized following and lots of positive feedback.

Sadly though, a week ago, Luna lost a litter of puppies; they were stillborn.  In fact they had died some time before.  She ended up at the vet’s, having a caesarean and being speyed.  It was traumatic for us and very sad.  I was devastated not to be able to provide the longed-for pups for the people waiting so eagerly and excitedly for them.  I was upset for my beautiful girl, feeling guilty for putting her through it.  Why had I bothered?

I wrote a few weeks ago about looking after your pregnant bitch explaining that I take the utmost care of my dogs.  I pride myself on doing all the health tests that I can and making sure that my dogs are the best they can be.  So what went wrong?  The answer is: nothing much went wrong.  Making babies is difficult – everyone knows that.  All sorts of things can go wrong, and often does.  That’s life.

I had had a vague feeling of unease about this litter.  Luna had experienced more difficulties than my other girls in having her other two litters.  The first time, the labour was longer and slower and she nearly had a caesarean.  Happily, she delivered five beautiful princesses, including Aura, the squeakiest dog you are likely to meet.  Two years later she had one stillborn pup, then four beauties, who were three years old yesterday – happy birthday Beatrix Potter litter!

One dead pup from 43 is a pretty good record.  I was therefore relatively confident in my experience of whelping that I could deliver these pups safely.  Luna had a generally normal pregnancy, although she did seem to be drinking a lot for a while, some weeks ago.  She had always been quite a thirsty dog, so I thought that she might have just been getting hotter than normal, carrying around her babies.  She definitely was not ill; no loss of appetite, no lethargy, no ‘staring’ coat, no sickness or diarrhea.  Nothing I could take to a vet.

Possible health complications

I found a good description of some of the things that can cause a bitch to reabsorb the puppies, which is also really common, possibly as often as 12% of pregnancies.  It says that this can occur because of some health complications affecting mother dog or the puppies.  Infectious causes may include bacteria such as Brucella canis, salmonella, e-coli, campylobacter and streptococci, parasites such as toxoplasma gondii and neospora caninum and viruses such as herpesvirus, parvovirus, distemper and mycoplasma.  Other potential causes may include abnormal fetal development, abnormal levels of progesterone, defects of mother dog’s uterine lining, inefficient placentas, side effects of drugs given to mother dog, mother dog’s age, not to mention various nutritional and environmental factors such as presence of metals in water, trauma, exposure to smoke etc.  Often, the exact cause is impossible to pinpoint.

Source: https://www.whydodogs.com/why-do-dogs-absorb-puppies/

What can we do about it?

I know that the pups didn’t die from any of the viruses against which Luna has been vaccinated.  I know that she was fit and well going into the pregnancy and that she was well cared for and well fed.  She did not suffer any trauma.  In other words, I did the best I could to produce healthy puppies.  That is all we can do – take whatever steps are available to us.

Where does that leave prospective owners?

When I receive an enquiry for a puppy, I tell people where I am with prospective litters.  If I have a litter on the way, I do tell people they might get a puppy.  Often people then become slightly hysterical with excitement – WE’RE GETTING A PUPPY!  I then have to explain that they might be getting a puppy.  There’s many a slip t’wixt cup and lip, as the saying goes.  From the time of the mating, these are the things that have to go right:

  • Conception occurs
  • Puppies are born healthy
  • Right number of puppies for the homes that are waiting
  • Correct sex of puppy for what the person wants
  • Correct colour, if required
  • Correct temperament for that home
  • No-one else chooses that puppy

A few weeks ago I wrote about selecting homes and how difficult this can be.  This time, there were always going to be people disappointed.  Two friends living locally wanted a puppy and they were always going to have the option first, as I am not a commercial breeder and would much rather pups stayed nearby so I can see them occasionally.

A happy ending

Luna is making good progress with recovering from her operation.  She should be fully fit and back to agility within another six weeks or so.  She is not yet eight, so she will have many happy years ahead of her.

I will have more puppies, just not from Luna.  I understand the risks and the challenges and I know that despite my concerns, I do a better job than many other dog breeders.  The dogs I have produced have brought joy to many people.

One of the homes I had lined up for this litter have already found another puppy.  I talked to them at length about the selection process.  This highlighted to me how challenging it is to find a good breeder and to know what to look for.  I will continue to write about this process, in order to help new owners and to support breeders, if possible.

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Applications Received: How are homes selected?

Waiting list update

It’s such a tricky process.  Do I advertise that there is a litter due?  Do I tell everyone I know?  Or do I keep it a secret, in case they are all born dead?  Should I take everyone onto the waiting list and hope that some drop off or change their minds later?  Or should I limit the list to the number of pups I think may arrive?

From experience, it seems that no matter how long my list, I often have pups without homes a few weeks along.  Sometimes it takes six weeks to sort out the right homes.  People might seem really keen and then decide they don’t want what I have – even after they have been to have a cuddle!  Or they want a particular puppy and I feel obliged to offer them a different one, as that one is also chosen by someone who contacted me earlier.

I always try and work on a ‘first come first served’ basis, but equally, I want to try and match homes to puppies.  Sometimes a pup will seem more laid back, or more feisty and that will suit a particular type of home better, in my opinion.  Often people come along with an expectation of wanting one thing, but when I meet them I feel they would be far better suited to something else.  This is particularly the case over the sex of the dog.  Most people come along with an idea that they want a dog or a bitch.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter, if it is a single dog household and they are experienced dog owners.

When there are other dogs in the house, getting the dynamics right can be important, so the sex and nature of the puppy will matter.  Again, people have ideas that if they have a bitch they cannot get another one (not true), or they have three dogs so ‘fancy a change’.  Not sure that is such a great idea, but it depends on the level of experience of the owner.

If the home is a family with young children, I personally feel that a dog is more manageable than a bitch, but it does depend on the family.  I think boys are slightly more ‘even-tempered’ than girls and therefore a bit more tolerant of being pulled around.  I also believe that border collies bitches are much less sociable with other dogs, so when they are out and about a dog is easier to manage. This is helpful if you only have one dog, as you want one who is friendly, not snappy.

Of course I am sometimes persuaded to send a pup off to a home, despite my reservations.  I know that every responsible breeder out there will tell you that they have done this, only to have the dog sent back as unsuitable.  This happened to me for the first time last year.  That makes the homing process even more difficult – how much do I trust my own judgement?

I am hoping that now this website is rammed with content, people will be able to see what my dogs are like and my beliefs and values as a breeder; they will be able to ‘self-select’ whether they are a good home.  Maybe that will make the job easier!  Here’s hoping…

Finally, I will say that if you are a friend, who is wondering whether now is the right time to have (another) one of my pups, PLEASE get in touch to tell me that?  I would hate you to miss out because I have homes sorted the day they arrive, which is pretty likely this time 😉

Applying for a puppy

If you would like to be considered for a puppy, have a look at the FAQs. You can also fill in a Puppy application form.

Please CONTACT ME if you would like to know more about my dogs or my puppies.  They are highly regarded and much sought after!

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Luna’s Last Litter

Border Collie Puppies

I am delighted to announce that Luna is expecting her 3rd and final litter, due mid November!

I have mated her with Goytre Chapter in Blue – Sox, who is Ounce’s dad.  I am very fortunate to have been able to use this gorgeous boy once again.

Possible colours for this litter (from the Anadune database) are as follows:

  • Black & White  – 60%
  • Red/Chocolate & White – 20%
  • Blue & White – 15%
  • Lilac & White – 5%

Goytre Chapter in Blue (Sox)

This means they will probably ALL be black and white =D.  It is unlikely that there will be any blue eyes this time.  These puppies will be real softies, loving their cuddles and ready and willing to do anything for you.

They are due to arrive in mid November, so will be ready to go to their homes in early January.  Luna has smaller litters than Sunny or Busy, and of course they have to be safely delivered.  Inevitably, I have already had some enquiries, but if you are interested in this litter, please do fill in an application form?

Applying for a puppy

If you would like to be considered for a puppy, have a look at the FAQs. You can also fill in a Puppy application form.

application form

Please CONTACT ME if you would like to know more about my dogs or my puppies.  They are highly regarded and much sought after!

NB: FOLLOW my page and you will receive a notification of all my new posts. SHARE this site with your friends and family using the buttons below.