Diabetes in Dogs – A Guide to Understanding and Treating Your Dog

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There are two basic forms of diabetes: type I and type II. Absolute deficiency of insulin leads to type I diabetes. This is due to an insufficient number of insulin-producing pancreas cells. Type I diabetes, often called "juvenile-onset diabetes" in people, and represents the most serious form of the disease. Effective treatment for type I diabetes requires a combination of controlled diet, regular exercise and insulin therapy.

Dogs are most often affected by type I diabetes and rarely have type II. People and pets with type I diabetes require daily injections of insulin to maintain a regular blood-sugar level.

Adult onset or type II diabetes is the more common form of diabetes in people. This condition combines a relative lack of insulin production with a resistance of body cells to the effects of the hormone. Type II diabetes is treated with a combination of diet, weight control and medicine that makes cells more sensitive to insulin. This form of diabetes is observed more often in cats than in dogs. Keys to successful treatment are a high-fiber diet, weight control and occasionally, medicines designed for humans to control the glucose level.

How Do I Treat Diabetes?

The treatment of diabetes requires the administration of injectable insulin to drive sugar molecules into the body's needy cells. Dietary changes will help.

You will need to learn how to give your dog insulin as well as how, what and when to feed your dog.

For dogs that are extremely ill, they will require hospitalization until the diabetes can get is under control.

What Should I Expect From My Vet?

Every veterinary clinic and vet is a little different in how they schedule rechecks following the diagnosis of diabetes.

One approach is as follows (and may vary with your individual veterinarian):

  1. The first appointment should include information about diabetes, demonstrate how to give insulin, and dietary recommendations.
  2. A recheck should be scheduled in one week that includes a clinical examination, history of the symptoms, a serum fructosamine level and a 12-hour blood glucose curve to be performed at the hospital. Treatment should be adjusted if necessary. Some vets will discuss the advantages of home monitoring and see if they you are interested in doing this at home. If you are interested in doing home monitoring, you'll need to order the monitor and strips before your next appointment.
  3. Two weeks later another recheck is performed. (Providing everything is okay), which is 3 weeks from the original diagnosis. At this appointment you may learn how to perform home monitoring techniques with your glucometer. You vet's office should show you how to use this machine and allow you to demonstrate how to obtain a blood glucose on your dog. You should also learn to calibrate your machine.
  4. Additional rechecks should be scheduled as needed which ends up being monthly for 3 months, then every 2 months for 2 visits then every 6 months if things are going well.
  5. When you are comfortable with using the glucometer at home, testing the blood glucose before your dog eats is recommended twice weekly for at least a month to help determine signs of a low blood sugar. If the blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dl – call your veterinarian to determine if they want to lower the insulin dose.
  6. If you will be doing home glucose curves, they should be done prior to your monthly appointment. Results should be emailed, faxed or dropped off prior to the appointment if possible. This will give your vet time to reevaluate and recommend any adjustments. Coordinate what schedule works best with your veterinarian.

Will My Diabetic Dog Need to be Hospitalized?

If your pet has stopped eating, has been vomiting, and is generally not doing well; chances are we will admit your dog into the hospital to begin treatment. This often happens when the diabetes mellitus has progressed and the body will produce ketones.

Because the body has not been able to use glucose as its energy source, instead it will begin to use its fat. When the body burns fat for energy, a by-product known as ketones are created and unfortunately they are toxic. Ketones can be found in urine samples.

Once ketones are present the animal will continue to decline rapidly unless treatment begins. The presence of Ketones changes the diagnosis to Diabetic Ketoacidosis which can be complicated to treat.

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