Just like with humans, our furry friends can develop canine diabetes. This is caused by the body’s inability to produce a hormone called Insulin, which controls the levels of sugar absorbed into the blood after eating. Dogs need this sugar as it provides cells around the body with energy so they can function normally.
Most dogs will suffer from type 1 diabetes, which means their body does not produce any Insulin at all. They will need to be on insulin treatment daily, usually by injection that the owner can do at home. Very rarely, a dog may suffer from type 2 diabetes. This variation of the disease means they can produce small amounts of insulin, but not enough or their body does not react correctly to the amounts they do produce.
Canine diabetes is likely caused by the dog’s body mistaking its own insulin cells for something else. The immune system’s natural reaction to a threat is to destroy those cells. In some cases, dogs who have suffered with pancreatitis may later develop canine diabetes.
What is the Best Diabetic Dog Food?
As our doctors would tell us, diet is especially important in maintaining safe glucose levels. This is the same for a diabetic dog. Since their bodies are not able to absorb sugars into the blood, they will need specially formulated food to counteract this. It is best to stick with one brand once you have chosen as any changes in diet can affect blood glucose and reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.
Most often recommended is a high fibre diet, as this can help to limit any blood sugar increases. The vet will also advise that you do not give any treats of human food as this can alter your dog’s glucose levels.
- Pet food for Dogs
- Dry food
- Recommended for Dogs above 12 months
Specially formulated recipes such as those by Royal Canin, Purina and Trovet are designed to provide low starch levels, ingredients with slow releasing glucose and high protein. This ensures that your dog gets all the calories he needs, while the ingredients in his food do not cause sudden fluctuations in blood sugar levels. When choosing a diabetic dog food, it is recommended to go for those that are veterinary approved. This means that the recipe and ingredients have been approved by a vet as appropriate for managing diabetes.
- Glucose control: specially formulated for the nutritional management of diabetes
- Low level of carbohydrate to help limit the rise in blood sugar after a meal
- Contains an amylase inhibitor from white bean extract to help reduce carbohydrate digestion
As well as ensuring your dog is able to get all the nutrients he needs, these formulated recipes take your dog longer to digest. This means his stomach stays full for longer and he is less inclined to search or beg for food, enabling better weight control.
Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs
There are some common symptoms to look out for that may indicate canine diabetes.
- Increased hunger – the lack of insulin means the dog’s body thinks it is hungry.
- Excessive thirst – increase in sugar levels means more water content drawn into the bladder.
- Increased urination – due to excessive fluid levels.
- Weight loss –if there is no (or little) insulin, sugars cannot be absorbed from the food, so the dog is not getting enough calories.
If left undiagnosed or untreated, a diabetic dog can suffer what is called a ‘hypo’ which manifest with the following symptoms:
- Dizziness or unsteadiness
- Sweet smelling breath (like pear drop sweets)
If you suspect your dog has suffered a hypo attack, you must contact your vet immediately. In the meantime, you can help by rubbing something sugary on their gums such as honey or jam.
A positive diagnosis for canine diabetes is done via blood tests. If the tests show a raised level of glucose in the blood, then it is safe to diagnose diabetes. However, elevated sugars can also be caused by stress so the vet may perform multiple tests over a few weeks to get an average reading.
Treatment of Diabetes in Dogs
Once a diagnosis has been made, the vet will need to prescribe the correct type and dosage of insulin. It is not always easy to get right, and it is common for doses to be altered following regular check-ups. If you have a female dog, the vet may also recommend spaying as hormonal changes when she comes into season can make controlling blood sugar levels difficult.
Insulin is normally given 12 hours apart, for instance 7am and 7pm, via an injection at the scruff of the neck and just after food. The times of the injections should be the same daily, so your dog’s body gets used to the treatment. Find a routine that works for you and your dog and be sure to stick to it. Before leaving the surgery, the vet will show you how to administer the injections and also how to do a simple pinprick test to check your dog’s glucose levels.
It is important to get regular check-ups so your dog’s glucose can be monitored. This ensures that they are on the correct dose of insulin and their body is responding well to the treatment. Any grogginess or dizziness will need to be checked by a vet immediately as this can be a sign of low sugar levels.
Exercise for your Diabetic Dog
Since your dog’s body will use up lots of energy on a walk, it is important that walks be kept to a certain length and at the same time each day. A longer walk than normal can cause a sudden dip in blood sugar, which can be fatal if left untreated.
As diabetes can cause weight gain in dogs due to their increased hunger, they do need to undertake supervised exercise along with their vet recommended diet to keep a healthy weight and maintain their blood sugar levels.
Once you have your dog on the correct dose of insulin, they are getting the right amount of controlled exercise and their diet is correct for their illness, your dog can manage quite happily with little to no side effects.
It is critical to note that canine diabetes is a lifelong condition, but with regular vet checks and a good diet, exercise and treatment routine, your dog can live a long and healthy life just like any other dog.