Stranger than Fiction: A Real Life Lesson on the Warning Signs of Diabetes

The story sounds like it would be found in a joke newspaper like the National Enquirer… but, in some cases, reality truly is stranger than fiction. ABC News reports that 48-year-old diabetic Jerry Douthett of Rockford, Michigan, woke up without his big toe. It turns out, his Jack Russell Terrier “Kiko” bit the infected toe off as the man slept! This incredulous story underscores the importance of taking care of your feet with daily foot inspections and products like the SteriShoe UV Shoe Sanitizer, so you can detect a diabetic foot infection early — before your dog does!

diabetic foot infection

A Jack Russell Terrier like this one bit his owner’s infected toe off and saved his life!
Image Source: Wikimedia.org

Strange but True: Pet Dog Bites Man’s Toe Off

“Jerry had had all these Margaritas, so I just let him sleep,” recalled Rosee Douthett, Jerry’s wife and a registered nurse.

“I woke up and the dog was laying alongside my foot, then I looked and blood was everywhere,” Jerry Douthett told the local. He then ran to the bathroom to rinse the blood off and discovered that his toe was gone!

The couple rushed to the hospital, where the rest of his toe was amputated. Kiko had gnawed the toe down to just below the nail line. “We see all sorts of problems, and I’m rarely surprised by anything, but I’m tucking this one away as an extreme oddity,” said Dr. Russell Lampen, the infection specialist who worked on the case. He explains that a healthy person, no matter how drunk, would have awakened much sooner, but the diabetic nerve damage prevented the man from feeling a thing.

Kiko was monitored for signs of rabies for several weeks, but biting the man’s toe off wasn’t abnormal animal behavior, experts say. “Dogs are known to be attracted to licking wounds. It wouldn’t be a bridge too far to suppose that the toe would have given off an odor that attracted the dog, and that may have progressed to biting or gnawing on the toe,” explained Brian Adams, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts SPCA. “If the owner didn’t wake up, there’d be no deterrent to stop,” he added.

Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker told ABC News that the elevated blood sugar of a diabetic is even more enticing to dogs — who are scavengers by nature. “Here’s a case where the high blood sugar could have been a sweet, ambrosial smell to the dog,” Becker said.

The family said they view Kiko as “a hero,” since he very well could have saved his master’s life by prompting the man to finally get the medical attention and diagnosis he needed to turn his life around.

Undiagnosed Diabetes Can Be Dangerous

Like many Americans, Jerry had been living with undiagnosed Type II Diabetes. For months, he suspected that something wasn’t quite right. The Grand Rapids Press reports, “The Rockford man’s strange odyssey began several months ago when he started picking at what he thought was a small sliver on the bottom of his toe. He used a knife to cut skin away from the affected area, but it worsened, swelling so much he had to eschew shoes and resort to loose-fitting sandals.”

Jerry admitted that he had been hiding the condition from his wife, although all his friends’ dogs that came to visit the house knew what was up. The dogs “would be sniffing all over my foot,” the man recalls. One day when Jerry was lying down working on a car, Rosee saw his foot and insisted that he make an appointment with his doctor. He confessed that he feared bad news, because his brother died of diabetes-related complications years ago.

When hospital health care professionals diagnosed Douthett, his blood sugar was 560 — a dangerous level, much higher than the recommended 80 to 120. He was likely suffering from symptoms like fatigue, dry mouth, extreme thirst, and numbness prior to the incident. While amputations are becoming rarer these days, stories like this serve as an important lesson for all of us who are trying to ignore the signs and facts, afraid of learning the truth.

undiagnosed diabetes

Many Americans are living with undiagnosed diabetes.
Image Source: CDC.gov

Prevent Tragedy by Taking Care of Your Feet

Don’t leave it to your dog to diagnose your diabetes! See a doctor regularly for checkups and have your blood sugar tested. Examine your feet for cuts and other injuries, but DO NOT attempt “bathroom surgery” on yourself! Use a SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer to kill pathogens, like bacteria and fungi, that live in the shoes and contribute to foot infections.

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