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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_in_dogs