Perfection. That is what my husband and I shout out to each other when we give our dog her insulin shot after finding the perfect tent and injecting the insulin without her yelping. But is there ever really such a thing? It’s been about 4 years since our Sunny was diagnosed as a diabetic and sometimes I feel like I can’t catch a break. I mean, sometimes giving her the injection can be stressful.
Four years ago, when we were in with the vet tech to learn how to give the shot, the focus was on “the tent”. A tent that seemed to appear effortlessly at the scruff of Sunny’s neck when the tech pulled it up to inject her with the test shots. And every single time the tech gave the injection, Sunny didn’t even flinch. When my husband and I tried, same thing. It seemed like giving Sunny an insulin shot was natural for her and we (my husband and I) only needed to get used to it as part of our routine. We were advised to focus on aiming the syringe at the base of the tent underneath the skin so as to make sure the needle didn’t break through and that the syringe wasn’t actually inserted into the skin layers themselves. We thought it would be totally fine as the injection obviously didn’t hurt Sunny. So we had nothing to worry about but to make sure we had good aim. Unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly the case. Here is what the vet tech didn’t tell us:
- Location –
- Position to administer the shot – a comfortable location is key. Not just for us, but for Sunny too. When we got home and it was time for her first shot, I simply couldn’t get comfortable. We tried putting her on a table to mimic the setting at the vet’s office – putting her at our level. That did not work, not even a little bit. Sunny was confused as to why she was on a table, I couldn’t keep her from sliding and fidgeting, and looking down the entire time only made my neck hurt and my shoulders stiffen. We put her back on floor level but a smooth surface only made her slide around too so back to the carpet. The next question to answer was, how was I supposed to sit? My husband and I both sit very differently when giving the shot and don’t know how the other does it. Where my husband kneels beside her, I actually have one of my legs extended with her in between.
- Physical location on Sunny – I prefer the scruff of her neck. My husband prefers between her shoulder blades. Our vet even suggested further down near her hind legs. While the hind legs are definitely not an option for us, basically we look for the meatiest part of her so there is something that we can hold on to and that hopefully won’t be a sensitive area causing her to yelp. Another thing to mention if you too have a dog with long hair, it might be difficult for you to find that perfect tent if the dog’s hair is too short or too long or freshly washed. My husband is not confident after a fresh wash or a short hair cut. Either way, I breath through it and inject on the exhale
- Tension – sometimes, like it or not, Sunny’s scruff just doesn’t make a perfect tent and it’s because of how she’s sitting. Sometimes it’s even because she wants to yawn or just shake for a second. But the tech never mentioned that. Trust me, it’s a scary thing to inject the syringe only to have your dog pull away, shake and see a syringe flying across the room. So I try my hardest to get that tent and if it feels like her neck is tense, I get Sunny up, walk her around and have her sit back down. If that doesn’t work, I scruff up her hair to force her to shake and get relaxed. Hey, whatever it takes, right?
- Bleeding – unfortunately, even if I feel like I have the perfect tent and everything seems like it went perfectly, I look down and there’s blood on the back of her neck. If you’ve done your research, then you also know that you can also find blood in the syringe. Luckily that has never happened to us. That most likely only happens when your pull back on the plunger while the syringe is still injected.
- Scar tissue – about a year ago, I noticed the scruff on her back feeling thicker when I try to gather up and form the tent and it wasn’t simply tension. It feels like a lump of fat sometimes and the syringe actually has gotten stuck. At first I thought we were injecting the insulin incorrectly and instead of underneath the skin the insulin was building up within the layers of skin. When we went to the vet, she explained that what we were feeling was scar tissue building up due to all of the pricks from the syringe over time and advised that we move where we inject the insulin over to the right or the left a little bit.
- Yelping/Flinching– sometimes Sunny yelps. It was worse in the beginning so I always thought she was picking up on our tense energy. But now, 4 years later, even when I feel absolutely fine and feel like I have the “perfect” tent, she yelps. Sometimes she only flinches on the way in but I start to doubt that she will stay still and instinctively pull the syringe out never injecting the insulin at all. I do not do that anymore and on the days she yelps or flinches or both, I follow through with the shot and pay close attention to her water intake and how much she relieves herself. If all looks good, then I’m reassured that despite the yelp or flinch, she received the right dosage.
- Focus – be in the moment. Sometimes I find myself worrying about being late for work, or making dinner, or being annoyed by that obnoxious song that has been stuck on a loop in my head all day. So even though I’m not stressed over Sunny or the shot, I’m still not focused. Enter, Deepak Chopra. Thankfully one of the mantras I learned from a 21-day meditation has stayed with me and so I pull myself out of my thoughts and focus on the moment by reciting “So Hum”.
I no longer strive for perfection when giving Sunny her insulin shot(s). It’s been 4 years and there are instances when she yelps (though not as loud and not as often), flinches or even bleeds. I may even get down on myself and start thinking that I am failing her, but then I notice that she’s still excited after her shot, wanting to play, and that her water intake hasn’t changed. Sunny is amazing at being in the moment and not sweating the small stuff. So I find my strength with her on those perfectly imperfect days, continue to work on my focus, stay calm and trust myself.
How do you find your strength in a difficult situation?