As I reported here earlier, Frankie and I had a successful trip to San Diego, where we flew together for the first time.
The insulin I carried with me apparently didn’t fare quite as well.
We had no problems during the trip, but the week following our return… Well, this requires a bit of background.
Diabetes Control and Insulin
For the three plus years since Frankie found the dose and type of insulin that worked well to control his diabetes, he has only had a single hypoglycemic incident. Moreover, that was early on, when I didn’t realize that, when you get to the end of the bottle, there’s a strong likelihood that the insulin will have pooled in a higher concentration and therefore be stronger.
I know it’s not uncommon for owners of diabetic dogs to deal with hypoglycemic incidents. I also know that the reason that Vetsulin, the pet-related insulin that I have been using successfully, was taken off the market in the U.S. was that the formulation had become unpredictable, so that the blood sugar control became erratic. I did notice some difference in strength in bottles, but I test Frankie’s urine on a twice-daily basis and adjust the dose accordingly. I know glucose urine testing is imprecise; it can only provides an average of blood sugar levels of the period of time between samples. But it’s always worked for me.
Until I got back from San Diego.
The (Literal) Wake-Up Call
About two days after we returned, Frankie fell out of bed in the middle of the night. This in itself would be scary, if I had not put the mattress on the floor after he injured his back leaping off the bed before he was diagnosed with diabetes. (Yes, Frankie and I sleep on a mattress on the floor together. I did mention I’m an old hippie anyway, didn’t I?) So when he fell out of bed he didn’t fall very far.
But he made a noise. And then he started stumbling around.
Dogs with hypoglycemia look like they’re drunk. It would be funny if it wasn’t a sign of something that can lead to a coma if left untreated.
Treatment is easy: You give food. If your dog isn’t so far gone that he can’t eat, he is generally voraciously hungry. The Karo syrup and other sweets that diabetic dog owners tote around are only for dogs that are too lethargic to ingest anything.
So, Frankie got fed, the vet got called, we returned to our usual routine…
Two days later it happened again, this time right after a long walk. As soon as we got home, the stumbling commenced. The timing was good; Frankie usually gets a little to eat after exercise anyway because his blood sugar is lowered and he gets rewarded for having survived yet another scary car ride to the trail.
But, after three years of near-perfect regulation, I had to figure something was up after the second hypoglycemic incident.
I had another bottle of insulin left from the stash I got from Canada, thanks to the generous help of Karen of DoggieStylish.com. I’ve blogged about that too. So I thought I would see if trying the other bottle would do the trick.
It seems to have. It’s been more than three weeks now and so far so good. I never had a problem traveling with insulin in a cooler on car trips, but I’m thinking the constant switching from a cold pack in a bag to hotel room refrigerator to cold pack to friend’s house refrigerator to home probably was too much for the fragile medicine.
But while this was happening I didn’t think it was a good idea to make plans to go away to BlogPaws. Hypoglycemia is easy for me to spot but I didn’t feel comfortable leaving Frankie with a petsitter who would either not notice the problem or who, if warned, might panic at the least sign of uncoordinated behavior.
Frankie has been known to get underfoot, slide on carpets, and otherwise be less than graceful.
The next step
I figured it was time to get some more Caninsulin from Canada since I now have only about 1/2 a bottle left. And I thought I would get a large supply just in case… I went into a bit of a panic when I saw that the Canadian pharmacy I had ordered from no longer had it listed. It turned out that the drug only appears on the list of available medications if you check the site from a Canadian server.
Then I thought about it. It seems to be tougher and tougher to get supplies — and the fact that travel had ruined my last bottle got me worried about the medication taking another trip from Canada, especially during a summer when U.S. cities have been experiencing record heat. Even though I paid $80 to get a two-day UPS rate, it took a week, the stuff got left out in the heat on the porch… In other words, I have no control over what happens to the bottle.
I also got a comment on the story of my Caninsulin saga from Natalie, who runs the excellent K9diabetes forum. She said it was too bad my vet had been less than encouraging about making a switch to a different type of insulin. She said a LOT of dogs successfully transition to NPH, a type of insulin that is made in the U.S., is far less expensive, and is readily available. One bottle gets ruined, you get another one.
If I never had had a problem with Caninsulin, I would have said why mess with a good thing? But I did. And I’ll never know how Frankie will do on NPH if I don’t try.
So I have a call in to my vet to get a new prescription and an appointment for a glucose curve after a couple of weeks of trying. Which means I still can’t travel for a while.
Wish me luck! If he makes the transition successfully, life might just be that much easier for me and Frankie. I’ll keep you posted.