Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is not the most common disease found in pets, but it can be a serious health concern if not treated. Caring for a pet with diabetes may seem daunting, but many pet owners find that it is not as difficult as it seems.
In honor of National Pet Diabetes Month in November, Dr. Audrey Cook, an associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has advice for pet owners on caring for a diabetic dog.
“Your vet will create a specific treatment program, focused on twice-daily insulin injections,” Cook said. “A consistent, well-balanced diet is also key.”
Diabetes occurs in dogs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to control blood glucose levels. Cook said this is most likely due to the destruction of insulin-producing cells or a damaged pancreas.
There are several symptoms that could indicate that a dog has diabetes. Cook advises pet owners to watch for increased urination and thirst, as well as rapid weight loss.
If owners notice these signs, they should take their dog to a veterinarian to be tested for the disease as soon as possible. If the dog is diagnosed with diabetes, the owner will need to begin insulin injections.
“If insulin is not started promptly, affected dogs will become very ill, with vomiting, dehydration and weakness,” Cook said.
If a pet is diagnosed with the disease, Cook recommends partnering with a veterinarian who specializes in or has an interest in pet diabetes.
Though diabetes can occur in any dog, some are at more risk than others.
“Female dogs can become diabetic after going through repeated heat cycles, so spaying prevents this from happening,” Cook said. “Certain medications can also trigger diabetes, so your dog may be monitored for this risk when on those drugs.”
A genetic component also causes certain breeds to be predisposed to the disease. According the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, these breeds include Samoyeds, Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles, Pugs, and Toy Poodles.
Owners of these breeds should not fear, however, as a predisposition does not mean the dog will get the disease.
In addition to insulin injections and a proper diet, exercise is a main requirement involved in caring for a dog with diabetes. With a little extra time and attention from their owners, dogs with diabetes can live full, happy lives.
“Modern methods for caring for dogs with diabetes have made things simpler, but this condition will require a daily commitment by the owner,” Cook explained. “Having said that, many owners have told me that caring for their diabetic dog has just brought them closer.”
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