Diabetes in Dogs is on the rise, similarly to diabetes in humans. Type 2 diabetes has been called the ‘Black Death of the 21st century’ due to its exponential global spread and growth and its devastating health impacts. Whilst the general growth and aging of the population are contributing factors, the global obesity epidemic is the key factor driving the expansion worldwide. Dogs, in a way, mimic their owners’ lifestyles and as such their ‘lifestyles’ are getting more Westernised, which contributes to the higher prevalence of diabetes in dogs. Whilst it is entirely possible for a dog with diabetes to have a healthy, long life, it does require a lot of commitment and hard work as well as thousands of pounds over the dog’s lifetime.
Diabetes Mellitus is a metabolic condition, which results in elevated blood sugar level (hyperglycaemia) due to either lack of insulin production or being unable to effectively use the insulin produced, known as insulin resistance (Diabetes UK).
There are two main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 (insulin-deficiency diabetes), which is an autoimmune disease characterised by the inability to produce insulin due to damaged beta cells within the pancreas; and
- Type 2 (insulin-resistant diabetes) is a result of reduced responsiveness to insulin or the pancreatic cells not functioning properly. Type 2 diabetes is also linked to lifestyle factors, such as being obese and leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Common risk factors for developing diabetes in dogs:
- unhealthy diet
- obesity (often the result of the above point)
- genetics – studies have shown that pure-breeds and mixed-breeds have equal chance of getting diabetes. However, some breeds have increased risk of developing diabetes. These include:
- Golden- and Labrador Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Cocker Spaniels
- Toy Poodles
- Fox Terriers and
- steroid treatments – long term use of steroids increases the risk of diabetes
- unspayed female dogs are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes than male dogs
- chronic pancreatitis
Diabetes in dogs can also be linked to an autoimmune disease or even a viral infection. In some instances diabetes can develop from pancreatitis.
Signs & symptoms of diabetes in dogs:
- increased thirst – you might notice your dog drinking a lot more
- frequent urination – your dog might ask to be let outside more frequently
- tiredness and lack of energy
- eye- and vision problems
- weight loss, which can happen despite eating the same amount of food
- increased susceptibility to urinary infections
If you suspect that your dogs has diabetes, make an appointment with your vet, who will take either a urine or blood sample to get a diagnosis.
If diabetes is left untreated, it can lead to serious consequences affecting your dog’s life and health. The most common ones include:
- Cataracts, which aren’t painful but they eventually lead to vision loss
- Liver problems
- Kidney failure
- Ketoacidosis is a serious problem that can happen in dogs with diabetes if their body starts to run out of insulin. When this happens, harmful substances called ketones build up in the body, which can be life-threatening if it’s not treated quickly. Signs and symptoms include fast breathing, vomiting, disorientation, sweet smelling breath and loss of consciousness
Traditional treatment of dog diabetes
The orthodox treatment includes insulin injections, controlled feeding and exercise regime.
The most common orthodox treatment is the insulin injection, which has to be administered daily. Whilst most owners manage to successfully do this after a while; initial problems can include:
- injecting too much or too little insulin
- insulin may squirt out as you inject
- side effects can make your dog eat less or go the other way and eat too much. Some dogs might even resort to stealing some extra food.
- Vomiting is another common side effect
Whilst your vet might advise you to go down the traditional treatment method, diabetes can be treated naturally as well. Even if you wish to go down the traditional treatment method, taking on board the natural treatment will be beneficial and it is worth discussing with your vet.
How to treat diabetes in dogs naturally?
Focusing on diet is central in treating, as well as preventing diabetes.
Evidence suggests that being slim and reducing belly fat are good ways to prevent diabetes. Calorie restrictive diets therefore have been central in weight-loss management. However, evidence suggests that they only work short-term and eventually the lost pounds are regained.
In order to avoid the blood sugar spikes, it is recommended to feed more frequent but smaller meals in a day. Three smaller meals a day should give a balanced and stable level of blood glucose throughout the day.
A diet high in fibre is essential as again it stabilises the blood sugar level as fibre takes longer for the body to break down and release energy from. Fruit and vegetables are high in fibre along with complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are acceptable for dogs and should be included in the diet in small quantities. In addition to fruit and vegetables, this also includes legumes (beans, lentils) and brown rice.
Fruit and veg are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which will support your dog’s immune system as well. Should you wish to know more about which veg are the most beneficial, please read Vegetable for Dogs.
In many of our articles, I’ve talked about the importance of including essential fatty acids (EFAs), specifically Omega 3 in the diet, which stands true for treating diabetes as well. Omega 3 has been shown to enhance glucose metabolism as well as prevent the risk of developing heart problems. Whilst overall dietary fat should be reduced, the importance is on reducing saturated fat whilst maintaining or increasing EFAs in the diet. As such, it’s a good idea to serve oily fish 2-3 times a week. Again don’t need to have a lot, but a small amount of tinned mackerel, sardines, salmon or herring as a food topper would do wonders to your dog’s health. You will also notice shinier coat, less itching and more energy.
Even if you have opted for the orthodox medical treatment, your vet will advise you to make lifestyle changes along the natural treatment method. Additionally, the natural treatment plan will help you prevent diabetes, which will save you lot of money and hard work.
Diabetes is a life-long condition in most cases. However, with appropriate management your dog can have a happy and long lif.