Last week was diabetes awareness week in New Zealand, so I was researching all things diabetic and came across this strange but true story…

(Be warned – the contents of this story are icky…)

Jerry Douthett is a 48 year old diabetic who lives in Rockford, Michigan, and like many others who have diabetes, Jerry suffers from the condition known as neuropathy. In my last blog, I explained how neuropathy causes numbness and loss of feeling in the feet, which means that wounds to the feet often go un-noticed. Jerry had such a wound on his big toe, and it had become infected. Jerry also has a Jack Russel called Kiko, and one day after a few Margaritas, Jerry napped in his favourite armchair while Kiko gnawed at his infected toe…

I know! Ew! But it’s true!

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

Jerry recalls “I woke up and the dog was lying alongside my foot, then I looked again and noticed blood everywhere,” Jerry Douthett told the local. He then ran to the bathroom to rinse the blood off and discovered that most of 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 went on to explain 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 licking and then 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 had a sweet, ambrosial smell to the dog,” Becker said.

The story is a somewhat macabre reminder of the dangers of neuropathy, and the importance of diabetic foot care and daily foot inspections, so that diabetic foot infections are detected early – before they are detected by your family pet!

The family said they view Kiko as “a hero,” since he may very well 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.