If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be feeling overwhelmed and unsure of your next steps. Will your dog’s quality of life be diminished? And what about your own quality of life -- will your days be overtaken by the constant agony of tending to your pup’s diet and symptoms? Learn what to expect if your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, and how you can help manage this disease and live with your diabetic dog.
Two Pieces of Diabetes Management: Insulin and Diet
Diabetes is managed and controlled through adjustments to your dog’s diet and feeding schedule along with insulin shots. Once it’s clear how much (and what) your dog should be eating, as well as how much insulin they require, the day-to-day routine is fairly doable. It is, however, a regimented routine that you need to keep up with. Your dog should be fed at the same time daily and have their insulin shot administered at that time. Although the scheduling may be tough to establish, the actual steps you’ll need to take each day are not very demanding.
In the days right after receiving the diabetes diagnosis, it can be difficult to figure out exactly how much insulin your pet needs. While your dog’s weight can be one factor in determining the dosage, it’s not the only factor; you’ll need to know how your particular dog absorbs the insulin. With the help of your vet, and intensive monitoring of your dog’s glucose levels, you’ll be able to establish the correct dose of insulin for your dog’s diabetes.
If your female dog hasn’t been spayed, she will need to be after being diagnosed with diabetes. The female hormones released during estrus can cause glucose levels to spike or fall, offsetting the insulin's ability to control her glucose levels.
Daily Insulin Shots
It can feel intimidating, especially when you are first learning the process, to give your dog an insulin shot. Try practicing administering the shots with an orange to get used to the experience. Generally, dogs need two insulin shots per day, given at the same time as the dog is fed, although in some situations, a once-daily shot may be sufficient. The number of shots required depends on your dog’s particular situation and glucose levels.
It’s important that the time between insulin shots remain consistent from day to day; since deviation in the timing is such a problem, it’s important to consider your schedule before committing to a certain time of day.
After your dog’s diagnosis, you’ll want to turn your attention to your pet’s weight. As well as being a contributing factor to diabetes, excess weight can interfere with the efficiency of treatment. Some dogs wind up losing weight as a result of diabetes, so it’s possible that, post-diagnosis, your dog may need to lose a bit of weight.
It’s vital that you get your dog to a stable, healthy weight. Once your pup has achieved their goal weight, you’ll want to feed them precisely the same amount of calories each day:
- Avoid unexpected treats.
- Feed your dog at least twice a day, if not more, in order to avoid spiking and plummeting glucose levels that could occur as a result of your dog being very hungry, and then scarfing down a lot of food.
- Meals should be provided at the same time each day.
- It’s best to provide food just a little bit prior to the insulin shots.
As with food, the amount of exercise your pet gets should be fairly consistent. While exercise is important and healthy for dogs, it would be problematic and could cause issues with your dog’s glucose levels if they went from low-key daily walks to more lengthy, intense hikes. If you are going to adjust your dog’s level of exercise, alert your vet and closely watch and monitor for any diabetes-related side effects.
Monitoring Your Pet’s Glucose
An important thing to monitor if your dog has diabetes is their glucose levels. Spiking glucose (hyperglycemia) is to be avoided, but so, too, are falling levels of glucose (hypoglycemia). Maintaining regular meals and providing insulin in regular increments following the meals is generally the best way to keep their glucose levels flat.
There are two main ways you can monitor your pet’s glucose levels: urine or blood. If you’re squeamish, the test using blood might be something you want to avoid, since you’ll need to draw a drop of blood. The urine test, which just involves strip tests, is less involved and might be the better option if you feel tentative.
Diabetes is a tough diagnosis to receive, and will require some significant changes to your dog’s life, and to your own. But once you become consistent providing meals and insulin to your dog at the same time each day, you may feel that managing this disease is very doable.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.