Friday, June 24, 2011

"Dog eats sleeping owner's toe"

Now that's a headline to grab anyone's attention! However, it's not to be found as a banner headline on a tabloid newspaper, but in the more obscure Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association. And it's a salutary lesson about the dangers of poorly controlled Diabetes, a disease that can be complicated by damage to the peripheral nerves and blood vessels, ultimately leading to loss of sensation and numbness.

The poor patient to whom this happened, had a pet Jack Russell who slept with her. The women awoke in the morning as usual, quite unconscious of the fact that half of her diabetic digit had been chewed off by her favourite pet. At first, all she noticed was blood on the sheets and the floor! As a consequence of her puppies night time snacking, she ended up in hospital where the long term consequence was that she underwent a lower limb amputation, which actually left her a double amputee.

This is a tragic story as well as a bizarre story. I know many people who let their small dogs sleep in their beds with them, and for the fit yet lonely, they are wonderful companions whose benefits far outweigh the negatives. But for Diabetics with altered sensation in their legs, this is a timely warning that:

       Pet dogs are still animals.

       Dogs lick things and can be a source of potentially nasty infections to open cuts and ulcers.

       Dogs chew things, and you shouldn't sleep in the same room as them.

According to the National Health Statistics for 2004/5 the prevalence rate for Diabetes was estimated to be 3.6% (or around 700,000). There is no doubt that there are more Diabetics now in 2011, so we're not talking about a small risk. Although the poor women reported in this article was a bizarre example of what can go wrong, the real issue is that Diabetes is not just a simple disease and "something to do with too much sugar": it has the potential to cause blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and can lead to amputation of limbs and digits. We must take the major underlying causes - obesity and lack of physical activity - very seriously if we are not to be overwhelmed with the impact that this disease threatens to have on the whole of society.
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