Diabetes is a complex disease group that affects dogs just like it does to us humans. Essentially, diabetes is a condition where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough of the hormone, insulin (Type 1) or impaired insulin production and/or an impaired response to the hormone (type 2). Type 1 is more common in dogs and thankfully, is a very manageable condition with which a dog lead a long and joyous life.
So what are some telltale signs that you should be concerned about your dog having diabetes? A positive sign on a few or more of these should warrant a trip to the vet for further investigations to confirm the diagnosis.
Symptoms Of Diabetes In Dogs
1. Change in appetite
2. Excessive thirst/increase in water consumption
3. Weight loss
4. Increased urination
5. Unusually sweet-smelling or fruity breath
8. Urinary tract infections
10. Cataract formation, blindness
11. Chronic skin infections
Australian terriers, schnauzers, dachshunds, poodles, and samoyeds are the breeds of dog that are known to be most likely to have diabetes. Juvenile diabetes can also be seen and is particularly prevalent in golden retrievers and keeshonds. So your dog displays a few of these symptoms and you take him/her to the vet. What there? A simple blood glucose analysis usually confirms diabetes. Depending on your dog’s post prandial and random blood sugar levels, the vet will probably prescribe regular doses of insulin. Administering the insulin diligently and timing your dog’s meals as per your vet’s instructions are very important. What is sought to be achieved here is optimization of your dog’s meals to coincide with the time of maximum insulin concentration in it’s blood.
What Can I Do
When it comes to diabetes, in dogs as in humans, medication is hardly the most important part of tackling the disease - Exercise and diet form a crucial part of diabetes management in your dog. Obesity is the single biggest causative factor of diabetes in dogs.
The best way to counter the diabetes and avoid potential secondary health problems like cataracts and severe urinary tract infections is by reducing your dog’s weight and restoring it to healthy levels by managing its diet and levels of exercise.
While there is a lot of contention within the community as to what constitutes an ideal diet for diabetic dogs, and new research is underway, there are some unanimously agreed upon truths:
1. Fibre content: Make sure every meal your dog eats is high in fibre. This makes sure that there aren’t spikes in it’s blood sugar levels and that the glucose is delivered to it steadily.
2. High Protein: A high protein diet has been shown to be effective in managing sugar levels in diabetic dogs. It’s veracity has also been contested in some quarters.
3. Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are essential for your pet to maintain optimal energy levels but they certainly need to be rationed and processed carbs such as white bread and refined sugar are best avoided completely.
Controversial though it is, a vegetarian diet, many claim, shows wonderful results in diabetic dogs. The internet is rife with some helpful success stories that extoll the benefits of having your diabetic dog go vegetarian. For those that still are skeptical or just plain unconvinced that their dog could thrive on a meat free diet, click here, to read some wonderful personal insights on pet vegetarianism/veganism.
What’s also often understated is the struggle that goes with having to administer daily injections to your dog. While breed and training do have a bearing in the ease of getting the unsavoury ritual over with, it can be quite difficult at first, both for you and your dog. But coupling the injection with a relatively healthy and risk-free treat (like prescription treats, or cleverly manipulated dog food) is a useful technique that is both safe and gets the job done. With time, your dog will begin to co-operate more and more for the procedure.
While diabetes is far from a death sentence for your beloved dog, it is a condition that requires you to be attentive and careful towards your dog’s health for successful management.