Diabetes in Dogs

by Jacque Newman

Excessive hunger, excessive thirst and excessive urination are often the first signs of diabetes in a dog.

"My dog has diabetes."

The above statement is being heard more and more these days. If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, take a few deep breaths and let's take a closer look at the situation.

Diabetes is just one of many diseases shared by human and animal. A diabetic, whether two- or four-legged, shares similar symptoms, similar treatments and similar outcomes. Just as diabetes has become a common diagnosis in humans, so it has in animals.

Let's look at the good news -
  1. Diabetes is as easy to diagnose in a dog as it is in a human. A simple and inexpensive blood test, while you wait, is available from your veterinarian.
  2. Insulin is readily available for dogs. In fact, many canines use the same formulations marketed for human use and available through most drug stores. Alternatively, insulins specially formulated for canines are available through your veterinarian. Each type works differently and one will work best for your dog.
  3. Just as human diabetics use a blood glucose monitor to check their levels, the same monitor can be used for a dog. You can buy a monitor for use at home or schedule the task to be performed at your veterinary clinic at pre-determined intervals. A curve and/or fructosamine test is also recommended to ensure that your dog's diabetes continues to be maintained. Testing is easily accessible, absolutely necessary, and always enlightening.
  4. A human diabetic who successfully maintains control of his or her diabetes knows that regulation is the key. Regulation means striking the right balance between insulin, diet and exercise in order to keep blood glucose levels in check. The same three keys apply to your dog's diabetes. Finding the correct combination can be difficult for some and easy for others. The good news is that there are many combinations to try and one will be the perfect fit for your diabetic dog.
  5. The best news: you can do it! If you had diabetes, would your doctor recommend euthanasia? Think of a diabetic dog in the same way as a diabetic human. Yes, you're on a learning curve that may look insurmountable in the beginning. But you can decide how much or how little knowledge you'll need in order to be your dog's best advocate and caregiver.

Let's look at the challenges -
  1. Your dog can't tell you how he's feeling so it will be up to you to monitor his behavior closely, especially during the first few weeks following diagnosis. Your veterinarian will need to know how your dog is adjusting to treatment. Entering these details into a daily journal at home is an easy way to keep on top of things.
  2. Your veterinarian may suggest a new diet, restrict treats, and tailor an exercise schedule that has proven successful for others. Making some of these adjustments may be a challenge depending upon your lifestyle and your dog's preferences.
  3. Injecting insulin and using a blood glucose monitor can be a challenge in the beginning as you hone your skills and develop a level of confidence.
  4. Diabetes-related medical emergencies such as hypoglycemia can occur. You'll need to recognize the signs and remember to keep Karo or some other type of sugary syrup available to stop a hypoglycemic episode from becoming critical. Knowing the symptoms and remembering to keep syrup handy can be difficult in the beginning but, after awhile, it will become second nature.
  5. Diabetic dogs, like diabetic people, are prone to some other health issues. You'll want to research diabetic-related diseases and how to avoid them. Gaining practical knowledge can be challenging but the reward of a healthy, happy dog is immensely gratifying.

© Jacque Newman