Getting Started

To start, I want to say, stop, take a deep breath. Now, let me say, canine diabetes is not usually a death sentence for a dog. In most cases, diabetic dogs will live a full and healthy life with proper management. My dog, Bender, was diagnosed with Diabetes back in 2007. You would never know he is diabetic.

What is Canine Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that affects the concentration of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Diabetes is the result of when a dog’s body makes too little insulin or doesn’t process insulin properly.

When a dog eats, their digestive system breaks food down into various components, including glucose. The glucose is carried into the dog’s cells by insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas. When a dog does not produce insulin, does not produce enough insulin, or cannot utilize it normally, their blood sugar levels elevate. The result is hyperglycemia, an excess of glucose in the bloodstream.

Without insulin, glucose stays in the bloodstream. Prolonged, elevated levels of glucose will cause damage to the organs, eventually leading to death.

Is Canine Diabetes Treatable?

At this point there is no cure for canine diabetes. Insulin must be provided through an injection after every meal. The good news is canine diabetes is manageable.

How to Manage Canine Diabetes?

The key to successful diabetes management is quality food, exercise and to get on a schedule that works for you and your dog. Although it is recommend to feed and give a shot afterwards every twelve hours. Some times life just doesn’t work that way. For example I feed Bender at 8:00am, shot right after, we go for a 3-4 mile run at 5:00pm. Then dinner at 6:00-6:30pm. This schedule works for us. You might find that you need to go for a walk at 6:00am, food and shot at 7:00am. Then a walk at 7:00pm, dinner at 7:30pm.

The point is having a schedule will help you regulate your dog. After all this time, I know that Bender’s glucose levels should be at 80-100 at 8:00am. He will spike up to 180-250 around 1:00pm. After our run at 6:00pm he should be back down to 80-100. Being on this schedule, I can spot check his glucose and know if something isn’t right. If at 1:00pm his glucose is 300. I know I will need to adjust his insulin. Same if it is low. Since I’m on a schedule and have taken time to develop a history for his glucose, I can better manage it.

Although I still can manage Bender’s diabetes if we aren’t on a schedule. It would mean I would have to check his glucose levels more often.

Insulin Requirements

The amount of insulin your dog will require will change. Sometimes daily. So it is best to buy supplies that will allow you to test at home. But no matter what your dog will require a shot of insulin after every meal. There are several different brands/types of insulin out there. I use Walmart/Sam’s Club ReliOn N (Novolin N), it is $25/bottle. There is also Vetsulin, Humilin N, and Novolin N. Consult your Vet on which they recommend.

Insulin requirements are usually based on several factors.

  • Food intake
  • Exercise
  • Outside Factors – stress, other diseases,  medication

Diabetes management is about cause and affect. Every action has a reaction. So keeping to a schedule is very important when it comes to food and exercise.

Food: The food your dog eats directly affects glucose level. It is important to look at ingredients and understand which ingredients will convert to glucose. I suggest finding a dog food that is high in protein, grain free, low in fat, little to no fillers (corn, white rice), little to no non natural preservatives.

Here is a list of dog foods you might consider:

Non diabetic friendly food will make it difficult, if not impossible to regulate your dog’s diabetes. Everything your dog eats will have a direct impact on their glucose level and insulin needs. No table scraps! Limit treats or find diabetic friendly treats. Quality food will cost more but it will reduce insulin needs and will help keep your dog healthy.

Your Vet might want to change your dog’s food to a prescription food such as Hill’s Science Diet W/D or Royal Canine. I highly recommend careful consideration and not switching. Although these foods are good, they might not be diabetic friendly.

Exercise: Exercise will help keep your dog healthy by: keeping their mind sharp, help control weight, improves mood, relieves stress, will help with behavior, and will help with glucose levels and insulin needs. I recommend daily structured exercise. For example:

  • A 1 miles walk twice a day
  • A 3 miles run once a day.
  • A walk around the block twice a day

The amount and type of exercise will depend on your dog and you should consult your Vet to figure out what is recommended for your dog. But the important part is daily exercise.

Outside Factors: Diabetes can also come with other issues that can affect glucose levels and insulin effectiveness. It is important to understand that anything can affect your dog’s diabetes. Your stress can cause your dog stress which can affect their diabetes. Or maybe your dog has to go on some medication for a few weeks. The medication can causes changes to insulin needs.

Cost & Supplies

Having a diabetic dog means you will have extra costs. Better food, insulin, needles, glucose testing supplies, extra Vet visits. Click Here for list of common supplies you will need.

A quick note: I have found that sometimes insulin supplies that are for dogs/cats cost more. A good example are syringes/needles. A u100 syringe with a 29g needle is the same whether for a dog or a human. Yet you might find that buying “Canine u100 syringes/needles” cost more.

Do some research and you might find ways to save money.

At Home Glucose Testing

I would highly recommend purchasing Advocate’s PetTest glucose meter or the AlphaTrak II glucose meter. It will save you money in the long run versus going to the Vet to get a glucose check and most importantly allow you to check your dog’s glucose levels at home.

Low Blood Sugar/Crashing

From time to time your dog will have low blood sugar. I call it crashing. It can be scary at first but with some quick action your dog will be back to normal in no time. For Bender when he crashes, it is very obvious. The best way to describe it is he acts drunk. He stumbles around, falls down, shakes, runs into walls and doors, he doesn’t pay attention (won’t respond to his name very well), he can’t see very well, he tries to find food or what he thinks is food. His blood sugar is low.

To raise it, I give him some honey (you can also use corn syrup or any other high sugar syrup) followed up with some of his food. How much honey and food you should give depends on your dog. In extreme cases you might have to rub the honey or corn syrup on their gums/lips.

Usually within a few minutes Bender will be back to normal.

What else do I need to know?

Living with a diabetic dog is challenging. There is a lot of information I can’t cover in just one post. So please read through the rest of my blog and comments. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Just remember, since your dog can’t tell you what’s wrong, you have to be strict with managing their diabetes. You have to be strong and have the will power for your dog. It can be the matter of you dog living a full life or passing within 6 months. It also has to be a family effort. I know it is hard to say “no” to those puppy dog eyes but do it from your dog.

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