Diabetes and Your Dog

Dogs can get diabetes just as humans can.  In fact, as many as one in a hundred dogs will get it in their lifetime.  Dogs experience the same symptoms as people do, such as excessive thirst and urination, fatigue, and weakness.

Diabetes happens when the pancreas produces too little insulin or the body cannot make the insulin work as it should.  This means that sugar is not taken from the bloodstream into the cells to feed them.  It builds up in the bloodstream instead.  Dogs will use up fat trying to make up for the missing sugar, so lose weight, are weak and tired. Dogs with diabetes need twice daily injections of insulin.

In addition, you can do some specific things that will help your dog maintain his blood sugar at the right levels.  One of them is to give him high fiber foods.  Diets that are high in fiber and low in fat are optimal for diabetic dogs.  The extra fiber slows the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream, so that sugar levels do not rocket up when the dog eats.  A low fat diet also decreases a dog’s need for insulin.

Dogs with diabetes have to have their meals at set times and be given a certain amount each meal to control their blood sugar.  Table scraps are out, as they not only mess up the balance of the blood sugar, they can cause pancreatic disease.

You can give your dog treats, however, if they are the right kind of treats.  Run some of the dog’s usual food through the food processor to make a flour, add water to make a dough, then bake it until it is crunchy.  The dog will love it, and you will not be giving the dog anything bad for them.  Just be sure to give the treats consistently as part of the dog’s regular diet so his blood sugar does not fluctuate.

You can also help your dog manage his diabetes by giving him more exercise.  The more fit and muscular the dog is, the less insulin he will need.  Even small amounts of exercise, for example, two 20 minute walks a day, will help.  Just be consistent and give the dog the same amount of exercise each day.  Periods of inactivity followed by marathon exercise can make blood sugar levels drop suddenly, endangering the dog’s life.  If you are doing something more vigourous than usual, bring some of the dog’s food along and give him some midway through the exercise period to keep his blood sugar up.

Exercise and limiting food intake are important for another reason.  The more weight your dog carries, the more insulin the dog needs.  Weigh your dog weekly and report any gain or loss to your veterinarian.  A high fiber, low fat diet will naturally make your dog lose extra weight.

It is important to watch how much your dog drinks.  When the dog drinks lots of water, it means his diabetes is not under good control.  You also need to take your dog out and let him urinate more often.  The sugar in the urine encourages bladder infections so the bladder needs to be emptied more often to prevent them.

Finally, you need to write down and memorize exactly what dosage of insulin your dog is getting, what times you administer it, and the type of insulin the dog gets.  This is important in case there is an emergency and you need to see a veterinarian unfamiliar with your dog. You will then be able to tell him what he needs to know to treat your dog.