Dealing with Diabetes in Dogs

Miniature pinschers, Samoyed, poodles, dachshunds, miniature Schnauzers, Cairn terriers, beagles, and Puli. Does your dog belong to one of these breeds? If so, then you should know that he is at a higher risk of developing diabetes mellitus, a disease where the body experiences the symptoms of an absolute shortage of insulin (insulin dependent, Type I) or an inappropriate response to the insulin (insulin resistance, Type II).

Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, is essential in the conversion of the carbohydrates, fat and proteins from food into energy that the body can use. But with diabetes, the function becomes impaired resulting in a wide range of symptoms including increased hunger and thirst, urination, and even dehydration.  Over time, the organs including the liver, kidneys are eyes are affected, thus, the risk for dental disease, cataracts and systemic infections increase.

The bottom line: Be sure to follow the course of treatment your pet’s vet recommended for the management of diabetes. While diabetes management in dogs will be initially challenging, partly because of the changes in diet and exercise habits, insulin injections, and regular blood glucose monitoring, it eventually becomes more manageable. Besides, it’s your responsibility as a dog parent to ensure that your pet is as healthy as possible despite his medical condition.

Maintain Your Dog’s Target Weight

Obesity is among the major risk factors for diabetes in dogs aside from the fact that it can make diabetes management more difficult. But don’t attempt to nearly starve your dog just so he will lose weight because it’s unsafe – weight management in dogs should be done with great care.

You and your vet will discuss a practical timeline wherein your obese dog can lose weight, usually within 2-4 months although it can also be longer. You may, however, also be in charge of a weight gain program in case your dog has lost weight due to his diabetes.

Be sure to follow the diet and exercise plan the vet has formulated specifically for your dog. Don’t change your dog’s food and supplements, feedings schedule, and exercise plan without consulting with your vet first. Remember that changes in his diet and exercise will affect his response to the insulin injections, among other possible consequences.

At present, researchers have yet to come to a consensus about the best diet for dogs with diabetes. But it must also be noted that most vets recommend a low-fat, high-fiber diet for helping diabetic dogs to lose weight and eat less. Still, you and your vet have to discuss the specific diet plan for your dog, said plan of which will take into account his specific circumstances.

Foods with low fat content have lower calories and, thus, these are good for weight loss and maintenance. Foods with high fiber content aids in slowing the entry of glucose (i.e., sugar) into the bloodstream and, hence, makes your dog feel fuller for longer periods of time. Remember that fiber can cause constipation because it takes water from the body so your dog should drink plenty of water.

Your dog may or may not respond well to store-bought dog food, say, at PetSmart. If he doesn’t respond as well as expected, your vet will likely recommend prescription dog food along with homemade foods suggested by a veterinary nutritionist. Again, stick to the plan and notify your vet in case you feel like a change is necessary.

But there’s also the matter of encouraging your dog to eat! Insulin shouldn’t be given on an empty stomach, too, which complicates the issue. You can adopt measures to encourage your pooch to eat in small amounts, such as stirring a tablespoon of his favorite canned food into his recommended food; adding a tablespoon of chicken broth into his dry food; and adding a few pieces of sliced scrambled eggs into his kibble.

Keep a Log

Your vet will ask questions about your dog’s response to his customized treatment plan with every follow-up visit. You have to answer these questions as best as you can and the best way to do so is to keep a log of your dog’s progress.

The log should include information about your dog’s diet including the types and amount of food and water he has consumed, the results of the glucose tests done at home, and the daily insulin dose, as well as the weekly body weight, among others. Basically, the log will provide information for the vet to decide whether a change in the treatment plan is necessary.

Your vet, for example, may change the type of insulin or adjust the insulin dose so as to establish a more stable blood glucose level in your dog’s body. You can be as detailed as you want in the log for this reason, especially when your vet wants to see whether your dog experiences hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.


Diabetes in your dog can be a scary thing but with your dedication, your pet will be able to live a normal life with little of the complications caused by the disease.

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