Like people, dogs produce a hormone called insulin that enables their cells to take up the blood sugar (glucose) they use for fuel. Diabetic dogs, however, either don’t produce enough insulin, or the insulin they do make doesn’t work efficiently. In either case, they don’t get all the fuel they need to run at full steam.
Diabetes in dogs may be caused by diseases that affect the pancreas and treatment for the condition typically requires injections of synthetic insulin. Sometimes, diabetes is hard to spot in dogs. It comes on so gradually that it may be months before you notice symptoms—like weight loss or weakness—and by then it could be well advanced.
Dog diabetes is often accompanied by three classic signs: drinking a lot, eating more than usual and frequent urination. In addition, some dogs with diabetes will develop sweet breath—a sign that blood sugar levels have risen too high. If you notice any of these symptoms—or if your dog is shaking, seems weak or tired or is steadily losing weight—get her to a vet right away.
While canine diabetes always requires a veterinarian’s care, there are also things you can do at home to help keep the condition under control.
Keep her trim
Being overweight can make diabetes much more difficult to control. To keep your dog at a healthy weight, measure her food to make sure you’re not giving too much. You should also hold back the table scraps, which can pile on the pounds.
For dogs with diabetes, switch to a high-fiber diet
Giving your dog high-fiber foods can help stabilize the rate at which fuels enter the cells, keeping blood sugar levels more constant. Look for specially formulated dog foods, like Hill’s Prescription Diet or Fit and Trim from Purina. These foods will help the carbohydrates in food be absorbed more slowly.
Steady dog’s blood sugar with smaller meals
Rather than giving your dog one big meal a day, feed her several smaller ones to even out the rate at which sugars enter the bloodstream. For starters, try giving your pup two meals a day and establish a feeding routine that you can easily stick to.
Got a diabetic dog? Keep his paws moving
Exercise is important because it helps control your pooch’s weight. In addition, the more your dog exercises, the less insulin her body requires. Ask your vet how much exercise your pup should be getting every day, then try to stick with it. Don’t jog a mile one day and not do it the next, because every change in exercise will affect the insulin requirement.
Give medications regularly
Perhaps the most important aspect of treating dog diabetes is preventing blood sugar levels from swinging wildly from high to low. Vets recommend giving medications at the same times every day. Most dogs are on twice-daily insulin injections since once a day is not ideal for managing blood sugar. Remember to not make any changes in your dog’s medication without first checking with your veterinarian.
Reward her for good behavior
No one enjoys getting shots, your dog included. To make the experience as comfortable as possible, be extremely patient and gentle. Then reward her with plenty of love and perhaps a small treat when you’re done. Your dog may actually begin to come and nudge you when it’s time for his shot.
Keep a sweet handy
Giving a pet insulin will sometimes cause her blood sugar to plunge too low, a condition called hypoglycemia. Always be sure, if you have a diabetic dog, that you have a source of sugar readily available. Always keeping a small container of honey or Karo syrup on hand. If your dog is shaking due to hypoglycemia, take some Karo syrup or honey and rub it on the gums until he is calm. Then head for the vet. Hypoglycemia is an emergency, and your pup may need intravenous glucose to recover.