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Diabetes is a growing problem among humans. Unfortunately, our pets can develop it, too. Sometimes it comes with age, other times with lifestyle. It can also be a side effect of some medications. And other times? It’s just the luck of the draw.
But canine diabetes isn’t a death sentence. It may take some tinkering and readjusting, but with a little bit of care, your pup can live a long, happy life with diabetes — and with you.
Are you ready to learn?
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which the body loses the ability to effectively metabolize glucose. What does this mean? Well, normally, the pancreas produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone that breaks down macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) into glucose, and transfers that glucose out of the blood and into cells.
With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin, but the body doesn’t respond to it as well as it should.
As a result of both types, the body is unable to adequately digest and process glucose. And this can cause a variety of problems, some of them life-threatening.
Dogs can develop both types of diabetes, though, interestingly, they are more prone to type 1, whereas cats are more prone to type 2.
Sometimes, diabetes can come on without symptoms. But other times, your dog’s symptoms may give you a warning. Some symptoms of canine diabetes include:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Loss of energy
Of course you should be curious about any significant change in your pup’s behavior. But these, in particular, deserve a trip to the vet.
Undiagnosed canine diabetes can lead to a number of problems, some of them very serious. These include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Enlarged liver
- Kidney failure
So if you suspect your pet has diabetes — and especially if your vet diagnoses it — it’s important to take it seriously.
How Your Vet Might Treat Your Dog’s Diabetes
If your vet diagnoses your dog with diabetes, he or she might recommend a combination of the following: insulin, weight loss, exercise, and dietary changes.
The following is not meant as a substitute for veterinary advice. If your vet diagnoses your dog with diabetes, it’s important to follow your vet’s care plan.
With dogs, as well as humans, weight loss is often the first line of defense against diabetes. Weight loss will help your dog’s body to use insulin more efficiently. It can also help to protect their heart from diabetes-related complications.
Exercise is very important for any diabetes patient — even your dog. Exercise helps to manage your dog’s blood sugar level. It also helps to keep your dog’s heart strong, and will help your dog to lose weight if they need to. And if your dog has type 2 diabetes — the insulin resistant kind — exercise helps the body to respond better to the insulin that your dog’s pancreas produces.
If your dog exercised before his or her diagnosis, Vet Info recommends continuing their same exercise schedule. However, because exercise affects blood sugar, if you’re increasing your pet’s exercise, it’s best to discuss it with your vet, and work out a plan to do it safely.
Your vet may also prescribe insulin injections for your dog.
Depending on your dog’s diagnosis, your vet may recommend dietary changes. These changes may include feeding your dog fewer calories, scheduling meals around insulin injections, or even prescription diabetic dog food. Your vet may also recommend staying away from commercially produced dog treats, as many of these contain high levels of sugar, salt, and fats. Your vet may also recommend a diet higher in fiber, and lower in fat.
Your vet’s recommendations will depend on your dog’s age, weight and activity level; how advanced their diabetes is, and other factor.
Living With Canine Diabetes
Canine Diabetes isn’t a the end of the world, but it’s important to take it seriously. Small changes to diet and lifestyle can make a huge difference in your dog’s health. Finding the right balance of food, exercise, and medication can be tricky at first. But the effort will pay off.
Featured Image: CC0 by Lynn Greyling, via Public Domain Pictures