Diabetes just like in humans is caused when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, which allows the cells to utilize glucose, one of the body’s most important nutrients. We can’t cure diabetes, but thanks to the creation of synthetic insulin almost 100 years ago, we can effectively control the symptoms and complications of the disease. There are many things pet parents can do to help their diabetic dogs live longer and better.
Keep an eye on his eyes
Nearly every diabetic dog will develop cataracts at some point, typically in both eyes, leading to eventual blindness. The excess glucose in the blood, which is nearly always present in some degree, even in well-regulated diabetes, causes changes to the lens of the eye, and cataracts eventually result. Most blind dogs can be trained to function well despite the inability to see, and in most cases these dogs manage well.
However, cataracts can lead to glaucoma, which is an extremely painful and serious condition that needs emergency treatment. Glaucoma occurs when the fluid that normally fills the eye and gives it shape cannot properly drain – it’s being continually produced, so it has to also go somewhere – and if not, the resulting pressure pushes out on the eye, causing it to expand. Monitor your dog’s eyes for redness and swelling and seek care immediately if your dog becomes lethargic.
Clear your calendar
The insulin products used for canine diabetics are typically given twice daily. Because insulin has a very specific duration of action, pet parents should be committed to giving the dosages at the same time every day, so that blood sugar levels are controlled as well as possible. Once the insulin is given, meals should be fed immediately after.
Watch carefully for clues
Weight loss despite an increase in appetite, drinking more water, and urinating more are three of the hallmark signs of diabetes. It’s likely that one or more of these signs tipped you off that there was something wrong in the first place, and what prompted your veterinarian to run lab work and subsequently diagnose your dog with diabetes.
Once your dog’s diabetes is “regulated,” meaning it’s mostly under control, the signs should lessen considerably, if not go away all together. That’s because giving your dog insulin injections supplies him with what his body needs to function properly. It’s the lack of insulin that produces all of these symptoms. And if his diabetes worsens, these signs will come back, and you’ll need to schedule an appointment with his veterinarian right away to consider changing his insulin regimen, or making other adjustments.
It’s a family affair
Taking care of a diabetic dog is a full time job. Make sure you have a family member or friend who has been trained on giving insulin injections and proper feeding procedures, should you have an emergency or be detained, leaving you unable to get home in time to give his insulin injection. That also means ensuring that your designated “back up” has access to your house, and knows where the insulin and syringes are kept.
Don’t forget to involve your entire family in your diabetic dog’s care. Talk to your kids about the disease, and make sure they know that they should alert you immediately to any changes they notice, especially acute lethargy and weakness.
Become an insulin pro
Most pet parents are first devastated to hear that their dog has diabetes, then relieved to hear that it can treated, and finally a bit terrified when they find out they’ll have to give insulin injections at home. And certainly, it’s not a skill that everyone has, but with careful instruction you can become a pro.
Insulin requires careful handling. It must be refrigerated, and very carefully mixed before each dosage. The bottle should be rolled between the palms – not shaken. Inadequate mixing can result in inaccurate dosages. Your veterinarian should schedule a special appointment to teach you all of these skills, and you should practice with his guidance until you feel comfortable.
Different kinds of insulin require different sized syringes, and using the wrong size can result in a fatal overdose. So always make sure the pharmacy dispenses the proper syringe for your dog’s type of insulin.
Ok, I know this post is long but it is all very important. Diabetes in dogs is very similar to diabetes in humans. If not treated correctly your dog can be in serious pain because of it. Take the commitment to care for these dogs and make these dogs live for the better.
If you have any questions feel free to email me at Germanshepherddogs@doglover.com