Diabetes isn’t just a condition for humans. Dogs can also become diabetic and it can be a serious health condition for them.
Diabetes is more common in older dogs but it can still occur in your dog’s younger years. Identifying that your pet has diabetes as early as possible is key to managing the condition.
When you spot the signs of diabetes in your dog and you get a diagnosis, they can access treatment and prevent the condition from worsening. Management of your pet’s diabetes will enable them to live a long and happy life.
In this article, we’re going to give you some top tips on how you can support your dog if they are diabetic. First, let’s take a look at what diabetes is and the common symptoms of diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus (often shortened to diabetes) is a metabolic condition that occurs when the body is unable to regulate the amount of glucose that is in the blood. It is caused by either inadequate insulin production or reduced insulin sensitivity.
Glucose is the body’s primary source of energy and insulin is the hormone that normally regulates its concentration in the blood. When a dog eats food, their blood glucose levels rise and insulin is released. This insulin stimulates cells to take up more glucose from the blood.
However, when your dog has diabetes, this process is impaired and this can lead to very high blood glucose levels (hyperglycaemia). When the blood glucose levels exceed a particular threshold, excess glucose is excreted in the urine.
In humans, diabetes is usually categorised as type one or type two. However, there is less of a distinction in the diagnosis of diabetes in animals.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs
You may not know that your dog has diabetes until they begin showing symptoms. Some of the common signs and symptoms of diabetes in dogs are:
Drinking water more frequently than usual
Changes in appetite
Persistent skin infections or urinary infections
How to Support a Dog with Diabetes
Caring for a dog with diabetes can be a challenge. However, the more you know about the condition and the more practice that you get supporting your diabetic dog, the easier it will become to look after them.
Most of the time, simple dietary and lifestyle changes can be adequate to manage the condition. Here are some top tips to help you best support your diabetic dog.
There is lots of great dog food for diabetes available in most pet stores nowadays. Make sure to read the labels when you buy a new type of food and ensure that it doesn’t contain too many simple sugars or saturated fats.
High-fibre diet that is full of complex carbohydrates is recommended for dogs with diabetes. Aim to feed your dog lots of different vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and cucumber. This might sound odd and your dog might turn their nose up to the veggies initially.
However, vegetables are full of micronutrients that can benefit your dog’s health. They also contain lots of healthy fibre that can aid your dog’s digestion and regulate blood glucose levels.
Avoid Overfeeding Them
Just like humans, dogs should not be overfed if they have diabetes. There are two main reasons for this.
Firstly, the overconsumption of food, especially carbohydrate-rich foods, can lead to large spikes in blood glucose levels. When the levels of sugars in the blood are chronically rising to very high concentrations, it makes it harder for your dog to regulate their condition.
Secondly, overfeeding your dog makes them more likely to become overweight or obese. Carrying extra weight can decrease insulin sensitivity and increase insulin resistance, which makes it harder for your dog to manage their blood glucose levels.
The exact amount of food that your dog needs will depend on a variety of factors, such as their size, age, breed, and physical activity levels.
Take special note of how many treats you feed to your dog and how often you are feeding them. Giving them the odd treat every few hours might not feel significant but they can easily add up over the course of the day.
Similarly, keep an eye on the amount of leftovers that you feed to your dog. Giving them tidbits at the table or putting your leftovers on the floor after dinner can contribute to your dog’s carbohydrate intake and may affect their blood sugar levels.
Stick to a Regular Feeding Schedule
If possible, stick to a regular schedule when you are feeding your diabetic dog. Don’t leave several hours in between meals as this can cause your dog’s blood glucose levels to become too low.
Stick to a feeding schedule of every 3-4 hours to help your dog maintain steady blood sugar levels. Giving them smaller, more frequent meals will provide them with ongoing energy for the whole day too.
Make Exercise a Daily Activity
Every dog requires regular exercise, regardless of its health status but it’s especially important for dogs with diabetes or overweight dogs. Regular movement is just as essential as diet when it comes to supporting your diabetic dog for a number of reasons.
Exercise helps your dog to maintain its weight and muscle mass. This can reduce insulin resistance and improve overall health and well-being.
Whatever kind of exercise your dog is doing, it can all contribute to better blood glucose regulation and insulin control. Walking, running, and playing are all great ways to get your dog moving.
Daily exercise is always recommended for any dog but depending on their size, age, and breed, they may require more or less exercise. If you’re unsure how much movement your dog needs, ask your vet for some advice.
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