As many of you know, 2009 was chock full of creature-related drama for me. From the feral cats of Project Treadstone to Charles' back surgery to problems with Violet's Vetsulin (insulin for dogs), we had more than our share of issues. If I told you what I spent last year doing work-wise, you probably wouldn't believe me and you'd definitely suggest I write a book about it.
At least Emily the kitty, though not at all skinny, had an uneventful year.
I receive frequent e-mails from readers asking how everything's going, so here's an update and some cautionary information.
Greyhound skin is very thin. The greyhound people tell you that, not to mention it's pretty obvious. Sometimes when they get a tiny cut or tear, it behaves like a zipper, depending on where it is, hence:
After a couple of weeks stitched up, it's now fine. She also had a tumor
removed from her eye. Both of those events required the dreaded "cone
of dysfuntion," as my husband calls it.
We were approaching our the end of our supply of Vetsulin and transition to something else was inevitable. The only problem was that there are few options and the number one option (NPH/Humulin N) was the insulin that she had a severe reaction to back in 2004. Furthermore, the insulin that was best for her back then, a long-acting one called Humulin U, for Ultralente, is no longer in production. Vetsulin was the perfect new product, except for the fact that it's animal (pig) based, unlike human insulins, and then there was the problem with quality control that was first reported last year. Though there was no actual recall, everyone using Vetsulin was told to be vigilant. Dogs have died from hypoglycemia due to Vetsulin and there is a class action lawsuit.
I am with Violet almost all day, and her communication skills are fantastic. She tells me when her blood sugar is getting low and we haven't had any episodes of hypoglycemia that needed to be treated with glucose in well over a year. Also, I check her blood glucose level at least once a day, so I always have a good idea of what's going on with her. For these reasons, my vet had no problem with me stockpiling Vetsulin.
Like many people with diabetic dogs, I haven't had major problems with Vetsulin. But alas, the supply has dwindled. I have some left but wanted to save it in the event that the transition didn't work and I needed to buy some time.
Fortunately, I can report that Violet's transition to Humulin went swimmingly. It's almost twice the cost, but it's not animal-based, she has no adverse reaction and there are no warnings about the quality. What a relief!
Also a relief is that I tried Nature's Recipe vegetarian dog food for Charles, and there's something about the ingredients (soybean meal is the 2nd ingredient–and Natural Balance doesn't have soy–maybe that's it) that he responds well to. So he is being re-veganized (Violet's already vegan), as long as his back and leg aren't adversely affected. For a little while I was convinced that he needed to eat a grain-free diet to control inflammation, but I no longer believe that grain-related inflammation is his issue. While grain-free, there was a time of improvement for him, but that improvement soon disappeared and probably wasn't related.
The success of Charles' back surgery, which was about a year ago, is at this point . . . inconclusive.
(Who can forget this?)
He has had periods where he greatly improves and looks almost normal. And then there's now, when he doesn't use his leg at all and bounces around like a bunny. The original diagnosis was severe nerve root compression at L7/S1, and I bet if we did an MRI right now we'd find not only that, but some kind of injury further up in the thoracic region due to semi-regular hopping. The vets say that Charles' condition doesn't warrant another surgery, and that sometimes it takes a couple of years (!) to see the full effects of this type of major surgery.
As for Project Treadstone, after several false starts, trapping, spaying and neutering will resume next week.
Once again, I am reminded of the micro aspect of helping animals. One at a time, each life as worthy as the next. So many, so little time, so little support and so few resources. Sometimes all we can do is care for the animals we share our homes and lives with. And sometimes, despite what we do, we can't fix everything.
But we owe it to them to do our best.