Could Your Dog Have Diabetes?

by Teresa Garden, DVM

Diabetes is a common endocrine disorder in dogs. The disease develops when beta cells within the pancreas are destroyed via an immune-mediated process. This results in impaired insulin secretion from the pancreas. Genetics and other diseases may be implicated in causing diabetes. Breeds at increased risk are German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Samoyeds, Beagles, Schnauzers, Miniature and Toy Poodles, and Pugs. Females are at three times greater risk than male dogs. Average age of onset is 7-9 years. Diabetes can occur with concurrent diseases such as Cushing’s disease, urinary tract infections, hypothyroidism, pancreatitis, and neoplasia. Dogs are afflicted with type 1 diabetes which is insulin-dependent.

Clinical symptoms pet owners will notice are increases in drinking, urination and appetite, lethargy, weakness, or blindness from cataracts. Your veterinarian can readily diagnose diabetes by performing blood and urine tests which will show increased blood glucose and the presence of glucose in urine. Diabetes in our pet pooches is treated with insulin, diet, exercise, and supplements. The goals of treatment are to eliminate clinical signs, slow or prevent cataracts, treat concurrent illness, and prevent blindness.

Intermediate-acting insulins given twice daily are chosen to treat dogs with diabetes. Vetsulin is a good choice for a newly diagnosed diabetic dog. It is a zinc insulin derived from pork which is very similar to the dog’s own insulin. Another insulin commonly used is Humulin N, a human origin insulin. Insulin must be kept refrigerated. Prior to injection, the bottle of insulin must be rocked gently back and forth to fully mix the crystalline solution. The dosage is measured accurately with an appropriately matched insulin syringe. Insulin is injected under the skin and it is important to change or rotate injections sites for better absorption. Insulin should be given at regular 12 hour intervals after your dog has eaten her meal. Your veterinarian or veterinary technician will teach you how to give the injections. While the challenge is daunting in the beginning, most pet owners become very proficient and confident giving insulin to their pet. Some dogs will look forward to their injection since they can be rewarded with their favorite treat or toy afterward.

Diet also plays a role in the successful treatment of diabetes in our dogs. Your veterinarian may suggest feeding a particular prescription diet based on your dog’s individual level of health. Companies such as Hill’s, Royal Canin, Purina, and Iam’s make various diets to assist in treatment of diabetes. These diets help with gluco-modulation while aiming to achieve optimal body weight. They often are higher in fiber and protein and lower in starch and fat. It is advised to feed two meals daily at regular times. The insulin is then given after your pet has eaten her meal. Regular exercise is advised. It can promote weight loss in overweight diabetics and may increase glucose transport.

At Animal Health & Healing we employ supplements to help our diabetic patients have a better response to insulin therapy. Various antioxidants can alleviate stress on many tissues and organ systems and improve overall health. Cataracts, uveitis, and retinopathy can be treated and prevented with an ophthalmic blend of antioxidants taken orally. The omega-3-fatty acids EPA and DHA are given to increase insulin sensitivity which will reduce insulin resistance in our patients. Fish oil can also be used to treat diabetic neuropathy and nephropathy. Glandular therapy can decrease destruction of pancreatic beta cells if employed soon after onset of disease. Pancreatrophin PMG by Standard Process is our product of choice.

The response to treatment can be monitored by both pet owner and veterinarian. As a pet owner, you should notice a decrease in excessive drinking and urination within 2-3 weeks of starting therapy. Your veterinarian will perform blood and urine tests to monitor your dog’s response to treatment. At home glucose monitoring can go a long way toward improving the quality of life of diabetic dogs and their owners. Your veterinarian can discuss using the Alpha Trak Blood Glucose monitoring system for this purpose. The prognosis for diabetes is good. With prompt diagnosis and proper treatment diabetic dogs can enjoy many years of good quality life. Treatment of this chronic disease requires commitment and diligence from pet owners. Their efforts are rewarded by seeing an increase in vitality and longevity in their loyal 4-legged friends.

Dr. Teresa Garden is chief veterinarian/owner of Animal Health & Healing, a full-service holistic and conventional veterinary practice in the Maplewood/Richmond Heights area. AnimalHealthandHealing.com; phone: 314-781-1738.