by Kimberly Wade
I feel like I talk about special needs pets on a regular basis. After all, the young, cute, happy-go-lucky and healthy dogs and cats are typically the ones that go home almost as soon as they arrive at Nevada Humane Society. That means the ones that need that added publicity are those that aren’t perfect. We feel that all of them deserve that second chance, but again, because those animals who may have a slight challenge stay at the shelter longer, whether they’re shy, or need to be the only pet, or have a medical need, we talk about them more.
My house, with 3 dogs and 3 cats is far from perfect. We’re in the vet more often than not (our furkids range in age from 1 to 15) and we know with more pets than most, it’s likely we’ll see things arise. However, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that special needs truly hit home.
Barley, my 9-year-old Benji look-a-like terrier, was diagnosed with Diabetes. I knew it was manageable and that he can still have a full, happy life so I didn’t panic. However, I don’t do needles. Not at all. I avoid having my blood taken and can’t watch it on TV. I know it’s not normal but it’s just me. With Barley a new Diabetic, I would now have to give him insulin shots every day. Special needs just got real.
We use acupuncture (and it’s amazing) on our kids and those needles don’t bother me—but they’re also tiny. We got lucky. Insulin needles are just as tiny. Though I was complete mess the first time I gave Barley insulin, he took it like a champ and I didn’t pass out. And yes, it did get easier.
A low-glycemic diet change was also easy. He loves all food. I researched making our own food and high quality brands we could buy, so that he could have a variety. Treats had to go away until we get his Diabetes under control, so he now gets ice cubes. He loves them.
The first week he took the insulin shots no problem. Then he started attempting to bite us or squirm out of reach. He quickly associated the needle with the pinch of skin with the ice cube. More research. I found that many people give the insulin as the pet is eating, when they are focused on something else. Bingo! It worked.
We’ve also had challenges with the units of insulin—we started with one amount and had to drop it because his glucose curve was still high. I’ve heard that is the biggest challenge—finding the right amount of insulin. He’s also switched from a pet insulin to human grade. Starting Monday, we’ll be doing our own glucose curves from home, after some training by our vet. Studies show animals do better if owners can learn how to do everything at home—less stress on everyone. So we’re learning. We’re having to adjust our schedules around his insulin, make sure no one gives him treats, and monitor his water intake, diet, potty behaviors and energy level (we started a journal). It is definitely a big change for everyone but it is manageable and despite the several weeks of ups and downs, it’s easy. As I write this he’s lying next to me on the couch, totally fine, watching GMA.
I can now preach about special needs pets from firsthand experience, and though I always said it was easy, it was scary for me to encounter this. But now I know. And I want you to know. Because when we ask you to adopt a special needs pet, we train you how to care for them, provide any medical supplies and care (for free or at cost), and are here for you anytime you feel overwhelmed. We have a special program for them (Angel Pets) because we want them to go home too. With so many dogs and cats that are also Diabetic at Nevada Humane Society, you can reach out to me personally to ask questions if it will make you more comfortable taking someone home. It may be tough while you all adjust, and yes, challenges may arise, but it’s manageable. If I can do this, you can do this. So, who’s ready to adopt a special needs pet and give someone an incredible holiday wish?
Upcoming Events: Bring your pet for photos with Santa Paws, December 8 from 4 to 6pm, and Saturday, December 9, from 10am to 4pm at 2825 Longley Lane in Reno. Photos are $10 each and all proceeds benefit homeless pets. Cupcake Day is also on December 9!
Featured Pet: I’m Sebastian, an 11-year-old Diabetic. I appreciate a cozy bed, a good ear scratch and I’m totally laid-back. I’ve been at the shelter much longer than others and really hope Barley’s story will convince you to take me home! Diabetes is manageable, and I’m used to it, so it’s a simple transition to your home. Meet me today!