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How to treat dog diabetes

Updated on November 18, 2008

Learn about treatment options for dog diabetes

Just as humans, our dogs may suffer from diabetes. And just as humans, canine diabetes stems from the same problem: an inability to produce sufficient insulin. Diabetes in dogs may have a genetic root, with highest incidences found in certain breeds such as Retrievers, German Shephards, Poodles and Miniature Schnazers. However, basically any dog breed may be subject to it. The age of onset however, is generally in the middle age, usually between 6-9 years.

The first symptoms of diabetes may consist of an unexplainable increase of appetite. Dogs may also appear to be excrete large volumes of urine causing them to compensate by drinking more. Some dogs may develop a sweet, fruity breath. At later stages the once ravenous appetite diminishes and the dog may start to lose weight. Lethargy may set in along with complications such as the presence of cataracts in the eyes and enlarged livers.

Left untreated, diabetes will affect all the organs. A complication called ketoacidosis may turn fatal left untreated. Dogs with this condition will develop a distinct breath that resembles the smell of nail polish remover. They will also start vomiting, exhibit rapid breathing, and general weakness.

When it comes to treating canine diabetes, there are two basic forms of management: dietary management and the use of insulin. When both are used in conjunction, dogs can lead a happy and healthy lifestyle.

Determining the correct dosage of insulin may be challenging. Most dogs are put on a trial at home and then they must undergo a blood glucose curve where they are hospitalized and their blood glucose levels are tested at frequent intervals during the day. Insulin at this time is only available in the form of injection. A common type of insulin prescribed for dogs is Vetsulin.

Many diabetic dogs are obese. Such obesity makes the management of diabetes quite difficult to treat. For this reason your vet may put your diabetic dog on a special diet. Common diets prescribed are Hill's R/D and Hill's W/D. Such diets are available by prescription only. Such diets are high in fiber helping cope better with the sugar fluctuations following a meal. They work by allowing the carbohydrates to be absorbed at a much slower rate.

It is also very helpful to give food in various settings. Ideally, dogs with diabetes should be fed in 2-3 meals a day always at the same time. Insulin to be the most effective needs to be given at the same time every day. Consult with your veterinarian for instructions should your pet refuse to eat or vomit his meal.

Always keep on hand a source of sugar should your dog's blood sugar plummet too low. Karo syrup or pancake syrup will do. Rub it on the dogs gums. Dogs suffering from low blood sugar will start shaking uncontrollably and appear uncoordinated. Hypoglycemia can be due to an accidental overdose of insulin. In such case, head towards the vet as this is an emergency and your dog may require immediate intravenous glucose

Exercise can be very helpful, especially for those dogs that need to shed a few extra pounds. As a bonus, the more exercise the less insulin the dog's body requires. Keep a strict daily exercise regimen and very likely you will notice the benefits in your dog with time. However, as with everything do not over do it, too much exercise may lower insulin too much.

Diabetes once was thought to be a life sentence for our friendly canine companions, today diabetes in dogs is very manageable. Most dogs lead a happy and healthy life. A great tip is to keep the dog on routine feedings followed by the insulin injection and to keep the dog on routine exercise regimens. While giving daily shots to your dog may not be pleasant, keep in mind that if you always praise, give lots of love and treats following the insulin injections, you will find to have on hand a very cooperative dog.

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