Often when people think of diabetes, they think that it only affects humans. Unfortunately this is not the case. Veterinarians say that diabetes in dogs can affect 1% of all dogs, and this is especially true for middle-aged and senior dogs – much like us!
What is Canine Diabetes?
Canine diabetes, as in humans, is caused when the blood glucose levels in the dog’s body are disturbed due to either:
- lack of insulin – your dog’s body is not producing enough insulin, or
- a resistance to insulin – your dog’s body is producing insulin in the pancreas, but its body does not use it as it should.This happens when the pancreas, which produces the hormones that control glucose, doesn’t work correctly. The insulin in your dog’s body helps in the conversion of blood glucose into energy. If the glucose can’t get into the cells because of a lack of insulin it builds up in the dog’s blood causing hyperglycaemia – meaning too much sugar in the blood
What causes diabetes in dogs and which type do they get?
As with humans, there are two types of diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 Diabetes is when the pancreas fails to produce insulin properly. Unfortunately this is the most common type of diabetes found in dogs.
Type 2 Diabetes is normally due to your dog being overweight or obese. The use of diet is a major factor in managing and event preventing it. Type 2 is not so common in dogs – It is more commonly found in humans and surprisingly also cats.
Whilst obesity in dogs can certainly be a factor and cause Type 2 diabetes other medical conditions may leave your dog susceptible to the disease; these conditions can include
- Breeding – some breeds are more prone to diabetes
- Inflammation which leads to issues such as pancreatitis and auto-immunity
- Metabolic syndrome – though this is questionable among the experts!
- Cushing’s disease may leave dogs susceptible to the disease. As well as German Shepherds there are some breeds which may be predisposed to this disease such as Labradors, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, and Dachshunds. Experts also find that middle aged and older dogs may be more vulnerable to it, as are unspayed female dogs.
- Pregnant dogs may suffer from a temporary resistance to insulin.
What are the Symptoms My Dog has Diabetes?
Some common symptoms of this disease include
- Weight loss – has your dog experienced sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Experience increased urination – you may notice your dog going to the toilet more frequently
- Vomiting may be a sign your dog has pancreatitis
- General weakness and fatigue
Testing for Diabetes in Dogs
If you find your dog is experiencing any of the common symptoms of diabetes then you need to make a visit to your veterinarian. A urine test will detect the presence of excess glucose, and if required a blood test may be carried out to check the blood glucose concentration.
Diabetes in dogs is manageable, and the sooner it is detected, the easier it will be to treat.
How to Treat a Dog with Diabetes?
While diabetes in dogs cannot be cured, it can be effectively managed.
Uncontrolled diabetes in dogs can cause serious health issues such as kidney damage and ketoacidosis. If you are worried about how to treat a dog with diabetes, your veterinarian will explain that the course of treatment is determined based on the dog’s symptoms, age, weight, condition and any other underlying medical conditions.
There are essentially three ways to treat diabetes in your dog:
- Regular Exercise is important to maintain glucose levels and a consistent walking routine must be followed. An exercise program can be developed to achieve the necessary weight loss with your vet or dog trainer – especially in obese dogs who are not used to exercise. Though we doubt this will be the case if you have a German Shepherd!
- Diet – your vet will be able to assist with a diet for overweight dog. For many dogs the resulting weight loss will greatly help and enable you to manage the condition. Don’t expect overnight results as it will take both you and your dog some time to adapt to both the dietary and lifestyle changes.
- Injections – your pet may require insulin therapy, and your vet will prescribe the dosage for your dog. These are not difficult to administer and the vet will help you become comfortable with giving your dog their daily shots.
Treating Dog Diabetes Without Insulin – Can I Treat My Dog Naturally?
Treating dog diabetes without insulin is only possible in consultation with your vet and they agree that a more holistic treatment plan may be useful. You may wish to consult with a vet trained in complementary therapies such as homeopathy. Regular blood glucose checks will be needed to determine the best course of treatment and depending on which type of diabetes they have It may be that your dog will require some amount of insulin support.
Regular blood sugar monitoring at home is recommended, as are scheduled visits to the vet.
A change in your pet’s care routine may seem overwhelming at first. However, after a short time both, you and your dog will become accustomed to it and you should see a change in your pet’s behavior as well as its overall health as they begin to feel better.
Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian
What should I feed my dog? Speak to your vet about the best for for a diabetic dog. Dogs with diabetes should eat a food type that has high quality protein from sources such as fish and lean meat. It should be low on carbohydrates and must still offer the vitamins and antioxidants they need.
When should I feed my dog? Discuss a feeding plan with your vet. Regular feeding will help avoid fluctuations of insulin levels in your dog’s body.
If you feed your dog a raw food diet discuss the best options for your dog. A balanced diet rich in raw foods along with appropriate supplements that boost the immune system may still be suitable and help manage diabetes in dogs.
What should I do if I miss my dog’s insulin shot? Your vet can provide advice on the best way to treat a missed shot.
How to check my dog’s glucose at home? Your vet can show you how to test your dog at home. The prick site should be dry and clean as moisture in the area can affect the reading. Before you are ready to draw the blood sample, have a gauze square ready to control the bleeding.
Finally, If you dog is diagnosed with diabetes please don’t panic. We know it can be difficult when you’re a dog parent; your days are more cheerful and happier because of your interactions with your dog. With good information and support from your vet you will be able to support your dog, enjoy its company and look forward to the time you spend together for years to come.