Health series – Diabetes

This post, which forms part of our Health Series, looks at Diabetes Mellitus. If your dog is showing symptoms of this, or any other signs of discomfort then you should always consult your vet.

What is Diabetes Mellitus?
Diabetes Mellitus is the Latin name for what is now more commonly known as ‘Diabetes’.  This is a chronic condition that can affect both animals and humans and is caused by a failure in the regulation of blood sugar levels when the body either cannot produce insulin or the insulin produced doesn’t function correctly.
The most common type of diabetes in dogs is due to a deficiency in insulin.  Insulin resistant diabetes can occur in entire female dogs during a part of their reproductive cycle when progesterone levels are high and may also be seen in dogs with Cushing’s Disease.

Diabetes is most common in middle aged dogs, and more often affects females. Certain breeds such as Samoyeds and Cairn Terriers are genetically predisposed to the condition although any breed can be affected.

Signs and symptoms
The most common signs of a dog suffering from diabetes is an increase in thirst and urination with an increase in appetite and weight loss. Diabetic dogs also can be lethargic.

Like humans, if left untreated, diabetic dogs can become seriously ill requiring immediate veterinary attention. Some of these symptoms include:
– Cataracts
– Enlarged liver
– Urinary tract infections
– Seizures
– Kidney failure
– Ketoacidosis

Dogs can be diagnosed with diabetes from as young as 18 months old, although the most common age is between 7 and 10. Un-spayed female dogs are twice as likely as males to have diabetes resulting in 70% of dogs with diabetes being female. Chronic or repeated pancreatitis, obesity and steroid medications are all things that can put a dog at risk of developing diabetes.

Diagnosing diabetes can be done from blood and urine samples.  Once a diagnosis has been made your vet may also check for any other diseases such as pancreatitis or hormonal conditions such as Cushing’s disease and treat accordingly.

Managing Diabetes
Your dog is most likely to require lifelong insulin injections.  There are several different types of insulin and your vet will devise a treatment and management plan for your dog.  It is important to realise the commitment needed in the management of a diabetic dog such as the injections of insulin, ongoing monitoring, regular feeding and exercise regimes, and also the costs involved.

It is only natural that you will be concerned and worried about injecting your dog with insulin.  However, once you’ve been shown how to handle the insulin and syringe and inject your dog, it does become a matter of routine.  You will also need to monitor your dog on a daily basis at home and your vet will suggest either monitoring blood or urine glucose levels.  This is important as any changes seen during monitoring can suggest that the insulin dosage may need to be altered which you will need to discuss with your vet.

To help balance glucose levels, it is important that diabetic dogs maintain a moderate but consistent exercise routine. Not only does this help with sugar levels but also helps make sure your dog is staying as fit and healthy as possible.

Diet is important in the management of diabetes.  Diabetic dogs may benefit from a diet that is higher in fibre which helps to slow the rate of glucose absorption.

Naturediet Feel Good Senior Lite contains a good source of natural fibre.  It is a complete diet and contains all the nutrients a dog needs. You will not need to feed anything else unless advised to do so by a vet.   Naturediet’s Feel Good Grain Free varieties also contain a good source of natural fibre by the inclusion of additional vegetables.

It is very important to consult your vet for advice on a suitable diet and feeding regime for a diabetic dog, and when changing your dog’s diet, you should do so gradually. If your dog doesn’t eat the food you give them, you will need to consult your vet for advice.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you and your dog through Diabetes:
– Avoid overfeeding: Diabetes is best managed through portion control
– Meal times: Minimise the likelihood of drops in glucose levels with feeding at the same time each day
– Keep alert: Putting a bell to the dog’s collar will help you keep alert to where they are, especially if they are is prone to seizures
– Clean teeth: Just like in humans, Diabetes can have bad effects on teeth. Make sure to keep them clean
– Record everything: Make notes of meal times, glucose levels and exercise times throughout the day
– Clue up: Educating yourself fully on Canine Diabetes will help manage the daily tasks of caring for a dog with diabetes