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Chewies Story

This is the story of Chewie who is a diabetic chin and my battle to try and give him the best quality of life and gain knowledge on a subject that there is very little knowledge in. Chewie was my first chin. I brought him in November 2003 at 12 weeks old. He had always been a picture of health and I had never had any health issues with him.

ChewieChewie chilling! In September 2004 my partner and I moved house with the chins. Not far, in fact only 10 minutes away from where we previously lived but any move is always unsettling for a chin. My other two chins settled quite quickly into their new surroundings and did not seem that bothered by the move and adjusted well. But Chewie was particularly unsettled by the move and it took him a long while to adjust to his new surroundings and environment. He seemed quite stressed out by the move and nervous. Eventually he did settle but it took about a month.

Shortly after this, Chewie started to gradually display some strange symptoms. His behaviour changed. Chewie became very lethargic and constantly slept, he seemed to lose interest in everything and seemed to only exist to eat and sleep. He was drinking much more water then he ever had before- nearly a whole bowel a day and he was starting to loose weight despite still eating his normal amount. I believed it to be the signs of diabetes.

In February 2005 I took him to a local vet and told them I believed that he was showing signs of diabetes. They treated him with all the normal things such as antibiotics in case it was an infection and I had to gain a urine specimen off him (which was not easy!)

When they tested his urine it showed very high levels of glucose. In fact it was on the end of the scale. The vets where ready to give up on him and suggested it might be in his best interest to consider having him put to sleep as there were no recorded cases of diabetes in chins and his prognoses and outcome looked bleak. I refused to give up and wanted to pursue the matter and find out if he could be treated. The vets liaised with a specialist in chins and said the only way they could be sure it was diabetes was for him to have a blood test (for which he would have to be anaesthetised) and they would also do some X-rays to see if there was anything wrong internally. The vet took him in but was unable to get blood from him and did not feel comfortable pursuing the matter in case they caused any damage. The X-rays showed nothing abnormal so they suggested that I take him to the specialist vet who was much more knowledgeable in chins.

In March 2005 I took him to the specialist vets. After a consultation and getting some history about him, they took him in for a full blood screen and to take more X-rays. The X-rays came back fine but the blood tests confirmed diabetes. His blood glucose was more then twice the normal amount in a chin. They also showed some early signs of liver disease which is associated with diabetes. The specialist said that something stressful such as a move or change in environment can trigger off diabetes in chins.

After discussions with the specialist we agreed to treat Chewie by diet to start with. This was a high fibre low / no sugar diet. We had to weigh him weekly to make sure he was not losing any weight. We were warned of some of the diabetic related symptoms that Chewie might display or get but at the time the specialist believed him stable enough to be treated by diet and felt no need for medication. Chewie was placed onto a mixed feed (pellets are bound with molasses) and high fibre hay such as Timothy Western, Redigrass and alfalfa. He only had natural treats such as pieces of wood or hay cubes.

Chewie continued to stay stable on this diet until September 2005 when he started to have fits due to the glucose levels in his blood being too high. We were warned this may happen. The fits were becoming very frequent and lasting a long time and as you can imagine were quite distressing to see. We took him back to the vets and after consultation between my local vets and the specialist it was agreed to start him on some glucose stabilizing medication. This seemed to help. The fits stabilized and with the diet and medication Chewie remained stable for some time.

In March 2006 Chewie returned to the specialist for a check up. All was well and Chewie was remaining stable. The specialist was really pleased with him his weight had remained stable and had not fluctuated, his fluid intake had not increased and the fits had remained stable. So no changes were made to his treatment.

In May 2006 the fits started up again He had previously been having the odd fit here and there but now they were happening nearly every day, sometimes twice a day and these were only the ones we saw! - he could have been having more. So we took him back to the vets and they increased his medication to the maximum amount that he could have. We did discuss insulin but both the local vets and the specialist did not believe this was an option as they would not know what type of insulin to give or how much to give, it would be a very big gamble to take and slightly too much could overdose him.

Chewie carried on with the increased amount of medication but made no improvement. His fits did not stabilize and I was coming closer and closer to the decision of having him put to sleep as it was becoming very distressing for him and he had no quality of life. As a last resort on recommendation, I contacted chinchillas4life for advice. I knew they had some chins on a vegetable and herb diet and thought this must be very low on sugars and Chewie might benefit from this.

Chinchillas4lifes response was very quick and they posted me out some vegetables and herbs straight away for Chewie. I started him on these immediately and within a few days the improvement in him was amazing. I had started to see my old chin come back. No longer was he lethargic, he was playing around in his cage and wanting to join in with my other two chins, and more importantly the fits were stabilizing. By the second week on the new diet Chewie passed a whole week with no fits.

Chewie continues to improve on this new diet and it is such an achievement to have been able to do this, even the vets are amazed by his progress. We have had a few set backs with some diabetic related complaints. Recently, Chewie had to have a bladder stone removed. This had happened due to him drinking so much water because of the diabetes. He is now only having filtered water to prevent this happening again. And he is a bit wobbly on his back legs. He is not as coordinated as my other chins due to the fits causing a small amount of brain damage. Apart from that he is a new chin. He is content and happy and most importantly stable and I believe that if we had not started him on the new diet of vegetables and herbs we would have lost him.


Update March 2007

Chewie is doing really well again. The fits have nearly stopped, he still has the odd one but they are greatly improved so the medication must be starting to settle into his system. He has also gained some weight by nearly 30g or so which I am really pleased about as he was very small only weighing in at 530g to 540g and he has also got a bit of a naughty streak in him at the moment!

Anyway just a quick line,
Hope you are ok
Love to all the chins


Update October 2007

Chewie is doing really well at the moment. He continues to fight his illness. We had a bad few weeks a few months ago when the fits started to come back bad again and he was fitting a couple of times a day. It was starting to look like we would have to consider what would be best and kindest for him. However, we changed the diet slightly, cutting down on the Care+ food and increasing the dried leaves, herbs and veg and also a slight increase to the seizure medication. He is now only having the occasional fit again.

The fits seem to be trigered off by nerves or change so we continue to keep a calm, stress-free environment for him. Not sure what fireworks night will bring though!

It is amazing really as at a year and a half old I was told to have him put to sleep as there was little that could be done and he turned four in August and has come through so much. We are just happy for each little bit of extra time we get with him he is a very special chin and so characteristic.