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Needle fear and my diabetic dog

Updated on November 12, 2015

Shot Club

One of the best articles on Dog Diabetes and a Fear of needles is CutetoBoot's The Day I Shot My Dog: It is a must read.

So why am I writing this? Because it took, what felt like, forever to find anything for people (like me) who find themselves in this position. The how to give insulin to dog articles are plentiful but woefully incomplete or next to impossible if you are doing it by yourself. Worst than that are the thousands of results where people are having real trouble giving the shots and no one asking the simple questions: HOW MANY TIMES ARE YOU USING THE SAME NEEDLE, HOW COLD IS THAT INSULIN, IS THAT SPOT SORE OR SENSITIVE?

I keep seeing statements like "my baby was fine for the first couple of times and now she won't let me give her the shot. I've seen responses from; hire someone to do it, to put the pet down. This is crazy! Room temperature insulin, unused needles and/or try a different spot.

Now this is the best basic info I've found so far, and again, a must read is: and still it's a little nutty when you are dealing with a dog by yourself, but it does have some valid info you should be aware of, not that it will alleviate your fears, but the more you know...

So it should be no surprise that the First Rule of Shot Club: DO NOT REUSE NEEDLES!!! Even if your Vet said it's ok (as my previous Vet did) DON'T. If you are using basic insulin (not Vetsulin) you can buy a box of 100 needles at Walmart for under $13, you can buy in bulk (500) online for under $40. You will be doing this once or twice (in my case) a day for the rest of your furbaby's life and a sharp needle is a joy, a dull needle will cause pain and anguish for both you and your pet.

As for my fear of needles, I come by it honestly and from the other side of the coin of CutetoBoot's. I have, what seems to be, the tiniest veins on the planet. Over the course of my life I was able to find one nurse who could draw blood from me on the first try, she use to work at a drug rehab clinic. Yes, my veins are naturally that tiny and they move. It would hurt (because they couldn't hit the vein), it would bruise, it was awful. So if I can, I avoid needles like the plague.

Of course God, in his infinite wisdom, gave me the most wonderful, bestest puppy in the world named Kirby, who ended up being diagnosed with diabetes at 6 years old and needs shots twice a day for the rest of his life. Oh, he also went blind two weeks after the diagnosis and my husband travels on business.

Why is this important? Well, I'll tell you. She's, going to tell, she's, going to tell, she's, going to tell, she's, going to tell (c'mon anybody, Monty Python and the Holy Grail…).

The answer: Cataract Surgery.

The first available slot was a month away and a weekend my husband would be out of town. So I had to be good enough to do this on my own in 30 days.

So the Second Rule of Shot Club: Don't be afraid to get a little help and by help I mean drugs. I headed down to my local Whole Foods for an orange (to practice injections on) and HerbPharm's Anxiety Soother, then down to my friendly Petco for Pet Naturals Calming Aid Chews for dogs. 40 drops of Anxiety Soother in 2oz of water for me, which tastes awful, twice a day, first thing in the morning and right before bedtime. Did it help? Not immediately, I still shook like a leaf but it did help me to push through. As for the calming chews, they need to be given 30 minutes prior to the stress event, give him the chew first thing then give the meal, eye drops & a potty break and you'll have a mellow little fellow by shot time. *Please note that by following these suggestion your confidence (and a regular treat) will replace the calming chews & Anxiety Soother in no time. We haven't taken either in at least a month and we've only been dealing with Kirby's diabetes for 2 1/2 months.

Third rule: Slow down and have a good treats. Practicing on an orange helped me get more comfortable with the needle and plunger but it didn't tell my exactly how to give the shot. In a moment of Anxiety Soother clarity I realized if I slowly inserted the needle into the pinched skin while Kirby was chewing on a piece of homemade chicken breast jerky he didn't pay any attention to me at all. Now when I sit on the floor all he cares about is that there's a chewy treat coming his way. Once you realize *you really won't hurt him* you will become more confident and more at ease with the shots.

Fourth rule: Assume the position. Breathe, get comfortable and, in our case, I have him straddle my thigh: front legs on one side back legs on the other. I use the loose skin near his tail (never using the same site repeatedly or it will get sore) so I don't have to look him in the oh so cute face. Slowly & gently insert the needle, gently push down the plunger then gently remove the needle. It sounds long but really only takes a few seconds once you get the hang of it.

Are you still having trouble? Then maybe it's a sensitive spot. Remember my old vet? She said use the loose skin at the nape of the neck. Nope! Kirby hates it, but he doesn't feel it on the loose skin near his tail.

Was everything going swimmingly and now it's not? Are you giving the injection in the same spot each time? It's now a sore spot. You need to switch it up sometimes. I still give the shots near the tail but I have Kirby facing different directions so I physically can't give him a shot in the same place.

Will you make a mistake & he feels it? Absolutely. If you got some but not all of the insulin in then you are done for that session and it's better than nothing. DO NOT TRY AGAIN! You'll get him the next time. Remember to just breathe and try different spot, making sure it's not cold and it is a new needle. You will be a champ in no time.

p.s. Kirby didn't get his surgery that day because his pre-surgery test showed poor pancreas numbers. Now he's on a new very low fat diet and we'll try again next month.

I truly wish you all the best with your furbaby.


Katie & Kirby

Update: Kirby got his surgery!!! Much love to you all!


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