My dog has recently been diagnosed as being diabetic. I want to ensure he lives as healthy and as full a life as possible, so do you have any advice about looking after a dog with diabetes?
Graham Finch advises…
I’m sorry to hear your dog has become diabetic, but most dogs manage well with regular insulin injections. I’m assuming your own vet has gone through the injection routine with you, so I’ve thought of a few ‘management’ tips that should help keep him stable.
• It’s vitally important to keep your dog’s injections at set times, so choose times you know you are going to be able to keep to regularly.
• Watch your dog’s weight (up or down) and the volume of water he is drinking – these are good indicators as to how stable he is.
• I would also try to keep his routine as stable as possible – for example, exercising at the same time and duration each day and similarly with his diet. It’s important to be as consistent with type, quantity and times as much as possible.
• I’d also recommend regular checkups with your vet to make sure you are giving the appropriate amount of insulin – this can vary sometimes. I do have one client who regularly uses a blood glucose kit and takes regular blood sugar readings throughout the day, but this might not be for everyone!
Anna Cherry advises…
is to try to keep the blood glucose levels as stable as possible during the day and night. This is because fluctuations in your dog’s blood glucose levels – if it goes too high or falls too low – can have serious health implications for your dog. The good news is, there are a few simple steps that you can take to help keep your diabetic dog as stable and well as possible.
Make sure you exercise your dog regularly every day. It’s important to try to keep the pace, duration and frequency of exercise the same each day. The temptation at the weekend is to go on longer walks or encourage your dog to do more energetic pursuits.
However, this should be avoided; instead, stick as closely as possible to the same exercise routine that your dog is used to during the week.
There are prescription diets available that have been specifically formulated to help keep blood sugar levels as stable as possible. For more information on these, it’s always a good idea to speak to your vet, as they will be able to give you tailored advice for your dog’s individual needs.
However, prescription foods are not always the best option. For example, if you have a fussy eater, then the most important thing is to feed them a food that you can count on them eating, rather than changing them on to a prescription food that they may be resistant to eating. Also, if your dog is overweight or obese, to help their diabetes management, it’s important to get them back down to a healthy weight as soon as possible. Therefore, feeding them on a light or weight-management diet may be more appropriate.
The main thing is, once you have found a diet, stick to it and avoid switching foods where possible – unless instructed by your vet – as the energy density and digestibility will vary between foods and could affect your dog’s blood glucose levels.
As well as the type of food you give your dog, the timing of the feeding, especially in relation to their insulin injection, is also crucial. For diabetic patients, it’s advisable to feed them twice a day by splitting the daily feed ration into two equal-sized meals.
If your dog is on insulin injections once a day, then the best time to feed the second meal is six to eight hours after the morning injection, as this is when the insulin will be working at its maximum level. If your dog is on twice-daily insulin injections, it may be beneficial to split his food into three equal-sized meals and feed the third meal six to eight hours after the second injection. This can help prevent his blood glucose levels dropping too low around this time. The most important point is that you need to be consistent with when, what and how much you feed your dog, every single day.
When to give insulin
If your dog is taking insulin, then the timing of the injections in relation to feeding is very important to avoid his blood levels dropping too low. For once-daily injections, the best practice is to feed a dog 30 minutes before or after his insulin injection. Some dogs on insulin prefer to have their food after the injection.
However, if you have a ‘picky eater’, then it may be best to feed 30 mins before, to avoid any refusals after the injection and the blood glucose levels dropping too low. If your dog is on twice-daily insulin injections, it is advisable to feed him at the same time as you give the injection, if possible.
If you have a dog that is nervous or suffers from anxiety, try to avoid situations that he may find stressful, as this can impede on his body’s ability to keep the blood glucose levels stable. Using pheromone collars and plug-ins may be beneficial, if this is the case. There are also herbal remedies that can help alleviate anxiety. However, I would always recommend discussing them with your vet first, before starting your dog on anything extra.
I hope this helps, the main message to take home is to be consistent with everything, including food, exercise and insulin administration. If you have any worries about your dog, then contact your vet asap for advice, as both high and low blood glucose can cause serious health problems.