Written by Anna Hollisey
Sadly, the rate of diabetes in dogs is increasing: among every 300 dogs, 1-3 will develop the condition. It’s more likely to occur in overweight and older dogs, but here’s some good news. Diabetes can be managed at home – and there are even some innovative new treatments on the horizon.
Healthy dogs produce insulin, a hormone which regulates glucose in the blood. Why is this important? Glucose (primarily from carbohydrates) is a key source of energy in your dog’s diet. Insulin enables your dog’s body to absorb that glucose, turning it into usable energy.
So when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin, the dog can’t manage levels of blood sugar and the consequences can be serious.
The cause of diabetes isn’t exactly clear, but we know that certain factors contribute to it. Pancreatic damage is more likely in dogs from the age of around 8 years, and the risk level is higher for overweight dogs.
Early diagnosis can prevent an emergency situation. Here are the main symptoms you’re likely to notice in a dog with diabetes:
Yes – like humans, dogs who are diagnosed with diabetes can often continue to live a happy and healthy life. There isn’t a cure for diabetes, but treatments can help dogs to manage their insulin levels. With care, your dog’s life expectancy can be just the same as it always was.
Diabetes is diagnosed using blood or urine tests. Once it’s diagnosed, your vet will talk you through a treatment plan. The main aim is to get your dog’s blood sugar levels back to their normal baseline.
You’ll achieve this through insulin shots (twice daily) and regular veterinary check-ups. Human insulin pumps aren’t suitable for our dogs. The vet will usually prescribe NPH, which is given through a U100 syringe morning and evening. It should be administered 15-30 minutes before a meal and you’ll get the best results from keeping the timings as evenly-spaced as you possibly can.
Did you know… Alternative solutions for diabetic dogs are currently being researched. In the next few decades, owners could be taking their dogs for cellular transplants or using slow-release pellets beneath the skin!
Your vet can recommend a specialist food formulated for diabetic dogs.
Diabetic dogs should go onto a diet which is low in fat and high in protein. They should eat frequently, but not be allowed to gain weight, which increases their risk of complications. Exercise is important here, too.Transferring them to a specialist diabetic food is the first step. What about snacks?
Since their bodies are struggling to regulate glucose, you’ll need to remove sugar from your dog’s diet. This means avoiding foods that contain sugar (including corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, etc).
They can have carbohydrates which rate low on the GI (glycaemic index) scale. These foods break down more slowly so that your dog won’t get a sudden spike in blood sugar. You’ll find a comprehensive list here at Harvard Medical School – here are some which your dog might find palatable!
Dogs with diabetes are at risk of developing:
Unfortunately, we don’t really know what causes the pancreatic damage that triggers diabetes. But we do know that some dogs are at a higher risk of developing the condition.
So you’re giving your dog a better chance if you: