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Diabetes Mellitus Treatments for Dogs


Veterinarians with a dog Jupiterimages/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Diabetes mellitus is an endocrine disorder that prevents the pancreas from producing sufficient amounts of insulin. Without insulin, the cells of the body cannot absorb glucose, a major fuel source, and the body goes into a kind of starvation mode.

Though there is no cure for diabetes, the disease can be treated. Management of diabetes generally involves insulin injections and blood glucose monitoring. To properly manage a diabetic dog, there is a certain amount of dedication and commitment required on the owner's part. It also requires effective communication and a positive working relationship with your vet. Caring for a diabetic may take a bit more time and effort, but once you get the hang of it, you will find it is not that difficult.

Monitoring the Diabetic Dog:

As the owner of a diabetic dog, your job is to do your best to keep his disease under control. Your vet will recommend routine blood glucose curves, but some owners are comfortable doing this at home. To do so, you will need to purchase a glucometer and lancets to collect a drop of blood. Not all owners are willing or able to do this, but most find it fairly simple. Regardless of your decision, you must always communicate with your vet.

An alternative way to check your dog's glucose levels (and monitor for ketones) is to catch urine samples and use urine test strips called Keto-diastix (compare prices). If glucose measures +3 and/or ketones are present for more than three days, you should see your vet.

Diabetic Dietary Needs:

Most veterinarians agree that a high quality diet is important for diabetics. Some will recommend a high fiber, low fat diet for diabetic dogs unless they are very underweight. Common prescription diets for diabetics include Hill's w/d or r/d, Purina DCO and Royal Canin Diabetic HF 18 Formula. Though diabetics do better on an appropriate diet, it is essential that they are eating regularly. Talk to your vet if your dog is not eating the prescribed diet well. Choosing a food for your dog takes time, but the right diet can make all the difference in his well-being.

Insulin for Canine Diabetes Mellitus:

Insulin therapy is the cornerstone of diabetes management in dogs. Several insulin types are available for use in dogs. Your veterinarian will make insulin type and dosage recommendations based on your dog's specific needs and his or her past experiences. However, most new diabetics go through several insulin changes before finding the one that works best. Even regulated diabetics may eventually reach a point where their blood glucose is no longer controlled and the insulin must be adjusted, whether by dose or type.

Insulin is administered by injection, typically every 12 hours and after a meal. Many pet owners are unable to imagine giving shots to their pets, but it is actually not as terrible as it may seem. Insulin needles are very small, and most pets do not even feel the injection. Before starting insulin therapy at home, you should be given a hands-on demonstration (usually by an experienced veterinary technician). He or she will show you how to handle the insulin, how to draw it up in the syringe and how to inject it. Here are a few key points to remember:

  • Insulin should be kept refrigerated at all times. It will be good for approximately 6 to 8 weeks. After that, it should be replaced (even if there is insulin left).
  • Because it may separate in the bottle, insulin should be gently mixed before drawing it up. Gently roll the vial between your hands or rock it from side to side. Never shake the vial.
  • Always be certain that you are using the proper syringes. Insulin comes in two concentrations: U-100 and U-40. Make sure the vial and syringes match.
  • To inject insulin, make a "tent" with your pet's loose skin between the shoulder blades. Angle the needle slightly downward to prevent it from coming out from the other side of the skin.
  • Do not give your pet insulin if he is not eating unless directed to do so by your vet. Your dog could receive an insulin overdose and develop hypoglycemia, which can lead to seizures, coma, brain damage or even death.
  • NEVER alter your dog's insulin dose without consulting with your vet. Always follow your vet's instructions.
Diabetes mellitus is an incurable disease, but it is not a death sentence. While some cases are harder than others, diabetes can be controlled in most dogs. Proper management is the key to providing quality of life for your diabetic dog, and it all comes down to teamwork with your vet, diligence on your part, and a true understanding of your dog.

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