Diabetes typically occurs when dogs are between 4 to 14 years old. The primary cause is unknown, but experts suggest that genetics may play a role. Any breed can be affected, but breeds that tend to have a greater risk for developing canine diabetes are:
- Cocker Spaniels
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Toy Poodles
Knowing the signs of diabetes is the key to protecting your pet. Proper treatment can lead to a long, happy, healthy and active life. If any of these statements or symptoms describe your pet, I would recommend talking to your veterinarian about the possibility of diabetes:
- Drinks more water than usual
- Urinates more frequently, produces more urine per day, or has “accidents” in the house
- Always acts hungry, but just maintains or is losing weight
- Has cloudy eyes
A veterinarian will check your pet’s general health and may ask about the previous signs. This can rule out the possibility of other infections or conditions. Your veterinarian will probably check your dog’s urine for the presence of glucose and ketones and, if indicated, will measure the blood glucose concentration in your pet. A definitive diagnosis only is definite when glucose is found in the urine and a persistantly high concentration in the blood.
If your pet has diabetes, the goal is to manage the diabetes by keeping the glucose concentrations regulated, avoiding spikes and drops, and to reduce or eliminate the clinical signs of this condition, such as excessive thirst and urination. Although diabetes can’t be cured, it is not unreasonable to expect that the condition can be successfully managed with daily insulin injections and changes in your pet’s diet and lifestyle.
Once your pet is on the daily insulin injections, it will be important to monitor the blood glucose concentration and keep it to as close to normal as possible. You don’t want the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) or other long term complications developing. This can be done using urine glucose test strips or blood glucose meters. By consulting with your veterinarian, you can decide what will work best for you and your dog.
Your pet’s diet plays a vital role in keeping the blood glucose regulated. Ideally, your pet should be fed exactly the same amount of the same diet every day and at the same times of day. Your veterinarian can determine how many calories your pet needs daily, based on his weight and activity level. Most veterinarians recommend a high-fiber, low-fat diet. The fiber slows the entrance of glucose into the blood stream and helps your dog feel full. Low-fat foods have fewer calories. So together, the diet can help your dog eat less and lose weight.
Make sure that your pet drinks plenty of water. Fiber takes water from the body and can cause constipation and other problems.
It is important that your dog continue to eat due to the fact that you cannot give insulin to a dog on an empty stomach. It can make him very sick due to the blood glucose level dropping to dangerous levels. So if your pet is not eating much, talk to your veterinarian. This may mean that he doesn’t like the food or it can mean that he is having diabetes-related complications.
Exercise is important for all dogs, but it may be even more important for dogs with diabetes. Exercise needs to be regulated because it affects the blood glucose concentrations in the diabetic dog. It is best to create a consistent exercise routine for your pet to avoid sudden changes in energy requirements. If you are concerned about your pet’s needs, just ask your veterinarian.
Regular check ups with your veterinarian can help identify changes in your pet’s condition. While you may feel that things are going well with your ability to care for your diabetic dog, visiting your veterinarian regularly will help you successfully manage the condition over time.
Diabetes isn’t a death sentence. So take a deep breath because with good care, your companion can lead a long healthy life. For more information, or if you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact our office.