Gwen has Cataract Surgery

Gwen - Diabetic Border Collie after Cataract Surgey
Gwen – with brand new bionic eyes and Barbarella costume!

It has been an emotional week, at the end of an eventful few months. Poor Gwen has had a really rough ride since being diagnosed with diabetes, nearly dying in August and then adjusting to being almost completely blind. As mentioned in my previous post we had set ourselves the goal of restoring her sight, but very soon our focus had to switch to just keeping her alive, in the first instance, and then getting the diabetes back under control and returning her to a state of good health.

Eye Veterinary Clinic Leominster
Eye Veterinary Clinic, Leominster – a place where they work wonders for animals with eye problems

Well, we finally got there at the end of November, so with great excitement, me and Gwen set off to explore the possibility of cataract removal surgery at the Eye Veterinary Clinic near Leominster. Now, less than a month later, the cataracts have gone, Gwen has intra-ocular lenses, and we are all hopping about with joy and excitement on the one hand, and trying to keep her calm and rested while she recovers on the other.

The post-op care is sobering – she has to wear one of those awful collars of course, and we have to administer eye drops and other medications throughout the day, on top of her usual insulin, but it is so worth it! Taking her out for short walks is really exciting – she doesn’t know what to look at next, and the spring in her step has returned. No more bumping into fences … Her vision is not back to 100% yet – that will continue to improve for up to 3 months apparently, but even now, three days later, it is enough just having her watch us again, and to be able to negotiate the place easily and without warnings and assistance from us.

Market Hall Vets in St Clears
Market Hall Vets – our brilliant local practice. It felt like we were living there in the summer!

We’re not completely out of the woods, regarding possible complications,  until the 6 months is up, but they become less likely as time goes on, and as we got through the really volatile first 24 hours with flying colours, I’m optimistic …

We have nothing but praise and gratitude to the staff at the Eye Veterinary Clinic and our local vets practice Market Hall Vets in St Clears, who we feel have done wonders for Gwen and supported us brilliantly as well. We have spent a small fortune, of course, but no regrets there – this has been money well spent. Speaking of which …

Hats off to Mick and Drew

The cataract surgery couldn’t have happened without the help of Mick, my dad, who very generously passed on a sizeable chunk of money that he inherited off his good friend Drew. Any small savings we had started for the barn roof had been quickly depleted by the intense veterinary dramas of the summer, and so Gwen would have had to have just accepted her lot – which she would have done. She had adjusted to being blind, but seeing her try to sort out scrapping alpacas when she couldn’t tell the front end from the back was both frightening and sad.

We’ve all been given a second chance here, so the biggest possible ‘thank you’ goes out to Mick and Drew.

I regret that I never got to meet Drew, but we’ve heard the tales of his great compassion and consideration for all animals – we like to think he would view this as a good use of his legacy, even if it is wasn’t directly used by Mick himself!

Gwen, our Border Collie, has Dog Diabetes

Gwen - border collie with dog diabetes at Pistyll Gwyn
Action Gwennie – watching the sheep on Caerthan’s birthday, April 2015

It’s been quite a week here: last Friday I noticed Gwen walk into the fence rather than go through the gate; this friday she is almost totally blind, on insulin injections and a special diet.

How on earth did we get here?

A few months back we noticed Gwen was eating and drinking more – we were actually pleased she was eating more as she has never had much of an appetite, but without much thought we treated her for various types of worms. We hadn’t connected the times when she misjudged the stairs, or bumped into a half-closed door. Easy with hindsight. I’m feeling guilty that we hadn’t returned to the vets sooner after the second worming hadn’t improved the situation, as we may have been able to save Gwen’s sight, but again – easy with hindsight. It is not as if she exhibited any signs of discomfort or distress.

The previous weekend, in Brecon, I had taken her on a long walk through Priory Wood, which was no different to usual – Gwen running off through the bluebells and ferns, or down to the river, then catching me up, and disappearing off again – the normal full-on dog stuff. It is so hard to believe that the cataracts have developed so quickly since then. Thinking about it, there were signs her vision was impaired, but she could see – five days later, she couldn’t. Apparently the diabetes is exacerbated by her hormones as she has come into season.

Two trips to the vets later and we have started stabilising her with small amounts of insulin. Actually, it’s more about stabilising us at this stage – getting us used to the twice daily routine whilst safely finding the correct dose for Gwen. We’ve also started preparing her food ourselves. I read something on the net which compared feeding a dog with commercial dog foods to feeding a child on McDonalds and Haribo – I felt like a really bad parent! She now gets a mix of brown rice, lentils, oats, some veg, tinned fish and eggs. We may need to get her some other meat protein, but as a long-term vegetarian I am struggling with the thought of directly handling meat. I’ll get over it if need be.

So we are coping with the injections and the food, all three of us. With the blindness, not so much. She can tell light from dark, and perhaps a little detail when the light is very good, but that is all. Herbert the cat seems to be aware of it, and is more forgiving of the times when he gets trampled, or is sent flying by a still over-enthusiastic dog. The alpacas are enjoying the fact that Gwen will spend more time sitting with them, rather than trying to round them up, (although she still has a go). But there’s no more dashing about the wood, exploring the fox holes and mysterious scents. We still do our full walks in the morning and afternoon, but once the light starts to go she struggles to stay on the path and would rather head for the open field. I’m hoping that when we have the diabetes under control,  a bit more of her adventurousness will return and we can resume our night time walks, which surely must have been done on smell and hearing alone in the past? (It can be pitch black up there, and she would never walk in the light of my torch.) She is obviously more subdued, and at times disorientated. She rubs at her muzzle with her paws as if she is trying to clear away the cataracts herself. For Caerthan and I this is heartbreaking. I don’t know is Gwen is directly grieving the loss of her sight, but we are.

And the future? It looks like this – we get the diabetes under control over the next couple of months. Gwen then has to be spayed to stop her seasonal hormones interfering with the insulin levels, which finally puts an end to those occasional puppy considerations. Then …

… we dream of giving her cataract surgery and restoring her sight. Out of the question right now, as it is hugely expensive, but I have stopped dreaming of a new roof for the barn. Who cares? Gwen is not quite seven years old, and despite the fact that the alpacas are not sheep, her heart is in the field. Her disposition is not for the hearth rug. 

We have a new mission – get Gwennie’s sight back!

There is a very informative wikipedia page on dog diabetes here: