A dog can quite literally be a best friend, but when your furriest companion has diabetes, it’s vital to take great care of him or her. This includes diet, exercise, and diabetic dog treats that your vet will approve since the last thing you want to do is inadvertently hurt your dog.
We love how our dog friends listen to us, love us unconditionally, and make us smile, and helping them to live their best life ultimately means we’ll be living our best lives, too. Diabetes can be a huge problem for dogs, but it doesn’t have to be. Today, we’re chatting all things diabetes to help you prevent, identify, and treat symptoms of this all-too-common disease.
What is Dog Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolism condition that affects a variety of different dogs. It’s an insulin condition; your pet’s body is either not producing insulin (or not producing enough insulin), or your pet’s body isn’t correctly using insulin.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. When your dog eats, its digestive tract converts the food it eats into a form of sugar called glucose. This glucose hangs out in the blood-stream until insulin tells the body to release it so that different organs and body processes can use it. Using it means your pet will convert it into energy to do all the things that he or she needs to do in a day: wag his tail, jump up on the couch, catch a Frisbee, and go for a walk with you.
When enough insulin isn’t being produced (or your dog’s body can’t use the insulin), too much glucose builds up in the bloodstream, poisoning your dog. While human diabetes and dog diabetes both come in two major types, these types don’t line up exactly. In fact, there hasn’t been a large number of studies done on diabetes in dogs (though we know it’s on the rise, just like it is for humans) but there are two loosely recognized types of diabetes in pets: Type 1 and Type 2.
If your pet has Type 1 diabetes, he or she has an insulin problem. There is either not enough insulin being produced by the pancreas or (in some cases) none at all. Type 2 diabetes means your pet’s body is having trouble using the insulin. Type 1 is the most common in dogs, though Type 2 will occasionally show up.
Does Your Dog Have Diabetes?
It’s important for every dog owner to be aware of the signs of diabetes in your pet. Not getting proper medical attention for your pet can lead to things like organ failure, a coma, blindness, or even death. Catching diabetes before it significantly progresses, however, can mean that your dog lives a full, productive life for years to come.
Watch out for the following symptoms:
- Weight loss (especially if your dog hungrier than normal)
- Heightened levels of thirst (more than normal)
- Increased need to urinate
- Dehydration (despite drinking lots of water and urinating frequently)
- Change in appetite
- Urinary tract infections
- Sweet-swelling or fruity breath
- Cataract growth or blindness
- Skin infections your dog can’t shake
If you see any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your dog’s vet. He or she will examine your pet and perform a urine analysis to check levels in your pet’s urine.
Here is a handy graphic with the most common signs of diabetes in dogs:
Treating Diabetes in Your Pet
It can be alarming for your vet to come back with a positive result for diabetes, but diabetes is very treatable. The veterinarian will work with you to establish a health protocol for helping you keep your pet healthy at home. Depending on the severity of the disease’s onset in your dog, he or she might need to stay with the vet for a week or two, until blood sugar levels have stabilized and the vet team has seen to any other complications that have arisen as a result of diabetes.
Once you take your pet home, however, you’ll be expected to feed your pet and monitor his or her lifestyle carefully. Because being overweight both helps to bring on diabetes and can make it worse, it’s important that your dog eats a nutritional, balanced diet.
There is some discussion about what kind of diet is best for pets with diabetes, but your vet will help you choose a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber, to help stabilize your dog’s blood sugar levels and keep the weight off. You won’t normally need a prescription diet dog food, but there’s a chance. The best thing to do is work closely with your vet.
It’s also important to keep your dog exercising regularly. The intensity will vary depending on your dog’s size and interests, but something like a walk or run every day will probably be necessary.
Also, you’ll likely need to inject your dog with insulin daily. This sounds worse than it really is! The needle is very thin (you’ll inject under the skin) and you and your pet will soon grow used to it. The hardest part will be in applying the medicine at the same time every day in conjunction with a hearty meal.
More than anything, the question most people want answering is: can I help prevent the onset of diabetes in my dog? The good news is that you can! Feeding your dog a healthy diet and helping him or her get lots of exercise is the key since obesity plays such a huge role in the development of diabetes in dogs. That, plus regular vet visits will help keep your dog in excellent health!
There are some breeds that are more genetically prone to diabetes than others. These breeds prone to diabetes include:
- Bichons Frises
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Fox Terriers
- Cairn Terriers
- Australian Terriers
Though diabetes can show up in any dog, whether purebred or not, these breeds tend to be at a higher risk. Outside of these particular breeds, however, it doesn’t seem that other breeds (or mixed-breeds) are more prone to the disease.
In addition to genetic propensity, another factor likely to impact the onset of diabetes is age. Diabetes happen more often in dogs older than seven years. Females are twice as likely to develop diabetes as males are and if a dog has pancreatitis or Cushing’s disease, she’s more likely to encounter the disease, as well.
There are also some medications (glucocorticoids and progestogens) that can negatively impact insulin production in your dog.
Dog Treats Are Important
Just like for people, treats for diabetic dogs can get of hand quickly. We love making our pets happy, and it’s easy to forget how many calories (and potentially harmful ingredients) are in just one treat. It’s not uncommon to toss several to a pet several times a day, only to realize later, when your pet is overweight, that all those treats are adding up!
This doesn’t mean you should skip the snacks altogether. Snacks are great ways to bond with your pet, and they can help with training and stabilizing blood sugar levels (and even as a reward for an insulin shot!).
Your vet can help you identify healthy diabetic dog treats, but the most important things to remember are to choose snacks that are low in carbs and sugar. You’ll learn quickly that this rules out most moist or semi-moist treats from store shelves. Dehydrated protein (such as beef jerky) however, is delicious, loved by dogs, and a healthy option. You can even make this at home to keep costs low!
Lots of people are confused by what can and can’t be shared with a dog, so we’re answering some common misconceptions here
Is tuna good for dogs?
Absolutely! Tuna has long been the realm of cats, but there’s no reason for your dog to enjoy it, also. Tuna packed in water is a great source of low-fat protein and because of that, it makes an excellent diabetic dog treat.
Can dogs have cucumbers?
The answer is yes! Vegetable treats like a slice of cucumber, a green bean, or a carrot stick are yummy and healthy and because you’re handing it to your dog, he or she will think he won the treat jackpot!
How many treats can I give?
Experts recommend employing the 10% rule: only 10% of your dog’s total caloric intake should come through treats. Simply put, stick to one treat at a time.
It’s also important to note that treats don’t have to be food. Dogs love being with you, so to bring your friend joy, sometimes a good belly rub or a game of fetch outside are even better than a snack.
You’ve Got This!
Hopefully, we’ve answered some of your questions about diabetes and helped you identify diabetic dog treats that will help your pet and friend get healthy — and maintain that health — for years to come. Diabetes can seem scary, but with a little prevention and good treatment, you and your dog will have no problem!