Uncontrolled diabetes made Sancho's heart stop, but thanks to a team of dedicated humans, he's got a new lease on life.
vet with the dog she adopted
Credit: Courtesy of Melissa Ogg

Four months ago, it was hard to see how Sancho the California Chihuahua mix would be able to enjoy his later years. He was at a veterinary office, needing resuscitation as a severe case of canine diabetes ravaged his body.

Today, he's not only still alive, but he's tippy-tapping around his home with his new family, including one of the veterinarians who helped save his life.

"I got a quick approval from my husband, which truthfully was neither required nor in doubt, and jumped at the chance to help him live his very best life in his golden years," Melissa Ogg, DVM, tells Daily Paws.

Sancho's survival story is certainly worth celebrating, but it also contains an important lesson: As your dogs get older, we all need to keep a close eye out for chronic conditions that can hurt our dogs' health.

Sancho's Failing Health

The 12-year-old Chihuahua was diagnosed with diabetes this past June. Like many pet parents, Sancho's family was unaware of the chronic disease. In its early stages, diabetes can manifest in excessive thirst, weight loss, and excessive urination. In its late, untreated stages, it can be fatal.

Ogg explains that as diabetes becomes more severe, the body starts breaking down fats and proteins, leading to toxic byproducts in the body and a life-threatening condition called ketoacidosis, which can seriously harm the kidneys.

Sancho's health took a nosedive on July 12 when he stopped eating and his diabetes become uncontrolled, Ogg says. At his vet's office, he suffered a seizure and his heart stopped.

Luckily, veterinary staff revived Sancho using CPR, but his bloodwork showed he was in diabetic crisis and had kidney failure, which lead him to be transferred to the Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG) in San Ramon, Calif., for intensive care.

A New Home

The VEG team immediately started giving Sancho the treatment he desperately needed, and his condition improved after four weeks. But his story took another tragic turn when his owner, who'd also become critically ill, passed away.

Ogg says the VEG team was devastated for the family.

"Her daughter asked if someone from VEG would be willing to adopt him, since she was unable to take him and she was so happy with the care he received here," she says.

Securing the quite-unnecessary husband approval, Ogg took Sancho home, where he's doing great. Sancho is taking full advantage of his second chance at life. His diabetes is well controlled, and he's fitting in very nicely with their other dog, Penny, and two cats, Gremlin and Littlefoot.

Ogg says his favorite activity arrives at mealtime, and they've been working on getting him back to a healthy weight. She says Sancho tap dances into the room when he hears the food bag open from across the house.

Sancho also loves walking through their neighborhood, and he sniffs every surface within his reach, Ogg says. He'll burrow under the covers at bedtime and really enjoys trips to the beach, where the sniffing surfaces are even more fascinating.

"He sleeps next to my husband's feet all day while he works from home, then follows us both around all day after work," Ogg says. "He's the sweetest little man, and we feel very lucky to have him join our family."

Keep an Eye on Diabetes

Sancho's tale has a happy ending, but for many pets with uncontrolled diabetes, their fate is much more grim. That's why its so important to keep a close eye on your dog's behavior and seek veterinary attention if you notice anything seems off.

"Overall, diabetes is a fairly delicate disease to manage," Ogg says, "and any minor changes in a pet's behavior or appetite should be taken seriously, as they can be an early warning sign."

Diabetes impacts around 1 in 300 cats and dogs in the United States. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a dog or cat can develop diabetes at any age. But dogs often develop the disease from ages 4–14 and most cats with diabetes are older than 6. The AVMA also notes that diabetes tends to be twice as common in female dogs than male dogs.

Certain breeds of dogs may also be predisposed to diabetes, including:

Meanwhile, male cats are more likely to develop diabetes than females. Obese cats are also up to four times as likely to develop diabetes.