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My Dog Has Diabetes…Now What Do I Do?
My Dog Has Diabetes…Now What Do I Do?
The results are back, your dog has diabetes. Now do not panic, with the proper care your best friend can lead a long, healthy life.
You may know someone who has diabetes and wonder “Is it the same in dogs as it is in humans?” In humans, diabetes is classified into two types. Type 1, which is insulin-dependent, and Type 2, which is commonly associated with obesity. In dogs you will find it is more commonly something similar to Type 1 diabetes, which is insulin dependent.
To understand what diabetes is, it will help to understand how the body converts food into energy (metabolism). Converting food into energy to power the body requires two key players: glucose and insulin. Glucose is the essential fuel for the body. Insulin is in charge of delivering this fuel. The food your dog eats is digested and broken down into nutrient rich glucose. Glucose is then absorbed from the intestines into the blood, where it is transported throughout the body. This rise in glucose, (blood sugar) signals the body to release insulin which instructs the cells of the body to open up and allow the nutrients in to use as fuel.
Unfortunately, with diabetes this glucose-insulin connection is not working as it should. The animal’s body is either insulin-deficient or insulin-resistant. Insulin-deficient is the most common type of diabetes in dogs. This is where the pancreas is damaged, or not properly functioning, causing the body not to produce enough insulin to maintain health. During Insulin-resistance, the dog is producing some insulin, but it is not using the insulin as it should. The cells are not responding. This type of diabetes typically occurs in older, obese dogs.
Now you have a better understanding of what occurs in your dog’s body, let us look at how he/she may have gotten here.
Here is a list of how your dog may have become at risk for diabetes.
- Age – While diabetes can occur at any age, it is commonly seen in middle-aged to senior dogs. Most dogs who are diagnosed are age 5 or older.
- Gender – Unspayed females are twice as likely as male dogs to be diagnosed with diabetes.
- Obesity – Overweight and obese dogs are at risk for insulin resistance and repeated pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes.
- Genetics – Some breeds are at higher risk than others.
- Steroid medications - Long-term use of these medications can cause diabetes.
- Cushing’s disease – This condition can cause diabetes, due to the body overproducing steroids internally.
- Chronic or repeated pancreatitis – this repeated inflammation of the pancreas can cause damage to the organ, resulting in diabetes. Remember the pancreas is the organ that makes insulin.
Guidelines to follow for diabetes in dogs.
INSULIN – The majority of diabetic dogs will require insulin injections. These injections are given subcutaneously, or under the skin. This may sound intimidating, but rest assured this process will become a quick and easy daily routine.
GLUCOSE MONITORING – Your veterinarian will work with you to establish the best plan for your dog. In the beginning of treatment, you may find it necessary to visit your veterinarian for testing and medication adjustments. Be patient, this is not an ongoing scenario. Once you find the right combination of medication, dosage, and diet home monitoring will soon be possible. Home monitoring will allow you to keep your dog’s blood sugar consistent, helping all of you to return to somewhat of a normal life.
DIET - Most likely your veterinarian will recommend the best type of diet and correct dosage for your diabetic dog. This will include quality proteins, fiber, and complex carbohydrates to help slow absorption of glucose into the dog’s system. It is important that your dog’s diet is consistent. Feed your dog the same type of food, at a set time, and a set quantity. Do not use a self-feeder, since this will enable you to control the amount of food eaten, making it difficult to administer the proper amount of insulin required. Depending on how many doses of insulin are required each day will dictate when and how much food is offered. Keeping a food journal is a great way to monitor the diabetic dog’s food consumption. Record everything your dog eats, including treats, chews, table scraps, and daily feeding.
EXERCISE - A moderate, consistent routine is best to keep sudden spikes or drops in glucose levels under control. It is important for the diabetic dog to maintain a healthy weight, while getting regular exercise to stimulate appetite and reduce stress.
WARNING SIGNS – You will want to be aware of
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels)
- Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels).
Hyperglycemia is less common, but you should still know the signs. Although most dogs will require the same dose of insulin for long periods of time, it is possible for the dog's insulin requirements to change. However, the most common causes for change are a reduction in amount of food eaten and an increase in activity or exercise, especially as the seasons change. The reason for feeding before the insulin is administered is to know when the appetite changes.
If your dog does not eat, skip that dose of insulin. If only half of the food is eaten, just give half a dose of insulin. Always remember that it is better for the blood sugar to be too high than too low.
What are the signs of low blood sugar?
Signs of hypoglycemia are loss of appetite, extreme lethargy, lack of coordination, trembling, muscle twitching, weakness, seizures, and discoloration of skin and gums. Most dogs will not eat or drink when they are in low sugar shock.
These symptoms may not be specific to hypoglycemia, there can be other possible underlying medical causes. The best way to determine hypoglycemia if by having the blood sugar level measured while the symptoms are apparent.
What are the signs of high blood sugar?
Signs of hyperglycemia are increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, sweet smelling breath, nausea and vomiting, dehydration, and increased appetite.
Here at Diabetic Dog, we understand that managing your diabetic dog can be challenging, but with quality products and ongoing support you and your dog can live a full and happy life.