The Director of the Amputation Prevention Center at the Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, Dr. Lee C. Rogers, has a warning for diabetic pet owners who have suffered a loss of feeling due to nerve damage.
The warning stems from an incident in which a two-year-old Jack Russell terrier chewed off the infected big toe of its owner while she slept. The 48-year-old Des Moines woman woke in the morning to find part of her toe missing, and blood on her bed and her pet’s face.
“She didn’t feel it at all,” said Rogers, a podiatrist who treated the woman, “When she woke up, there was blood all over the place.” Rogers eventually had to amputate the woman’s leg after she developed an infection – leaving her a double amputee.
Rogers is now cautioning diabetics who have lost feeling in their limbs to cover their feet and any wounds while sleeping. “Pets have a tendency to lick wounds, and that simple lick can turn into a bite if there is no response from its owner,” warns Rogers, adding that there has also been cases of dog’s saliva infecting their owners with dangerous bacteria.
About 60 to 70 percent of diabetics have some sort of nerve damage, or diabetic neuropathy, due to poor diabetes control. Diabetic neuropathy results from years of high blood glucose levels, and often begins with a loss of sensation in the feet.
Diabetic neuropathy is a leading cause of amputation, although staff at the Amputation Prevention Center have achieved a limb salvage rate of 96 percent since opening its doors in January of 2010. The Center uses cutting-edge technology and a unique team approach. It recorded an average healing rate of 52 days in its 350 patients the first year, less than half the national average of 120 days.
Oddly, this is not the first known incident of this type. Last year a Michigan man with type 2 diabetes lost part of his big toe when his Jack Russell bit it off after the man passed out from a night of drinking. Doctors who treated him after the incident said they would have had to amputate the toe anyway.
Diabetic neuropathy is not an inevitable part of having diabetes. It can be avoided, or at the very least, minimized with proper diabetes control. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics can control their condition with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, careful blood glucose monitoring, and oral diabetes medication insulin injections if needed.