How do I care for my diabetic dog?
Finding out that your dog has Diabetes can be quite a shock. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for your Diabetic dog. Diabetes Mellitus is an endocrine disease that occurs when the pancreas does not secrete enough insulin and the body cannot regulate or process glucose properly. Unregulated Diabetes Mellitus causes increased thirst and urination and can lead to cataract formation. In some cases, a serious condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) can occur. Once your dog has been diagnosed with Diabetes, it is essential that you follow your veterinarian’s recommendations to avoid complications.
Well-managed Diabetics can still live long, healthy lives. Here’s how:
Insulin is the cornerstone of Diabetes Mellitus treatment. Injections are generally given one to two times daily under the skin. Many dog owners cannot fathom giving a dog a shot, but it is easier than it seems. Injections are given under the loose skin between your dog’s shoulder blades. The needle is incredibly small – your dog will hardly feel it. Also, the amount injected is usually quite small, so it will be over before you know it.
Before beginning insulin therapy, you will typically have the chance to sit down with a veterinary technician for an insulin demonstration. He or she will show you how you should store and handle the insulin, how to draw up the insulin in the syringe, and then how to inject it properly. Take this time to ask as many questions as possible. Be sure you are absolutely comfortable with the process before you try it at home.
Note: Never adjust your dog’s insulin dose or schedule unless it is recommended by your veterinarian.
Blood Glucose Curves
One of the best ways for your veterinarian to see if your dog’s Diabetes is regulated is by running a blood glucose curve. This test is usually performed over a 12-24 hour period and consists of drawing just a drop of blood about every two hours. The blood glucose levels are measured and charted, and then your veterinarian will decide if the insulin dose should be adjusted. Newly diagnosed Diabetics need frequent blood glucose curves until the disease can be considered regulated – sometimes as much as every two weeks. Once regulated, blood glucose curves are usually only done a few times a year.
Most dog owners want to do what they can at home to monitor their dog’s Diabetes. The most important thing you can do is watch your dog for symptoms. Excess thirst and/or urination, changes in appetite, weight loss and cloudiness of the eyes can all be signs of uncontrolled Diabetes. Report these and any other changes to your veterinarian. See a veterinarian right away if your dog becomes very weak or lethargic, loses consciousness, or has a seizure. These are signs of possible hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) – an emergency situation.
Many veterinarians recommend the occasional use of special urine test strips that check for the presence of ketones and glucose in the urine. Any amount of ketones in the urine is considered abnormal and should be reported to your veterinarian. Though Diabetics will almost always have some glucose present in their urine, a consistently high level also warrants a call to the vet.
Some owners are comfortable performing blood glucose checks at home, but this is not for everyone. Ask your veterinarian if this is something that might work for you and your dog before trying it at home.