All dog owners are initially shocked when “diabetes mellitus” is diagnosed. However, the good news is that your dog can nevertheless lead a long, healthy and happy life with an adapted diet and the right care and rearing.
Dogs with Diabetes – The Right Food
How do I recognise if my dog has diabetes?
It's not at all easy to recognise if dogs have diabetes – after all, very few dog owners have discussed the issue of diabetes with the vet prior to the diagnosis. Hence, the symptoms for diabetes are often not connected to the disease whatsoever or too late. The same applies as for most illnesses though: the sooner it is recognised, the better the chances of treating it.
Consequently, you should observe your dog closely and take it for regular check-ups. The better you know your dog and its behaviour, the sooner you can recognise alterations. For instance, symptoms of diabetes can be increased thirst, urinating or vomiting frequently, apathy or cataracts. Depending on the stage of the disease, your dog's appetite can also increase or decrease significantly.
If you've established that your dog is showing signs of change – be it with its eating or exercise habits – you shouldn't hesitate to contact your vet. Unrecognised diabetes can lead to severe secondary ailments, such as urinary tract infections, cataracts or grey star, which can ultimately make the dog go blind. Targeted examinations allow the vet to reliably determine whether diabetes is present and if so, in what form. If the result is positive, your vet will put together a special care and diet plan for your dog and give you tips as to what extent you have to alter your previous diet and rearing arrangements.
What are the causes of canine diabetes?
The causes of diabetes sometimes remain a mystery even to the vet, so it's not always possible to fully clarify why exactly your dog has ended up with the disease. However, there are a few factors that demonstrably facilitate the onset of diabetes. First of all, the dog's age and sex. Although both male and female and young and old dogs can suffer from diabetes, statistics show that females and older males are affected frequently in comparison. Some breeds are also more susceptible to diabetes, including Rottweilers, Miniature Schnauzers, Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers and Pugs. In addition, both infectious diseases affecting the abdominal cavity and pancreas and hormonal alterations due to certain medication are further causes of diabetes. It is also diagnosed relatively frequently amongst overweight dogs.
Here is a summary of typical causes of canine diabetes:
- Age and Sex
- Breed - Some are more susceptible to diabetes
- Infectious diseases
- Hormonal alterations due to certain medications
Diabetes diagnosis – what now?
If your vet has diagnosed your dog with diabetes, you naturally first need to process this news. But look at it positively: you know now what's wrong with your dog and with targeted therapy and an altered diet can help your four-legged friend to soon get better. Treatment with insulin or tablets alone isn't sufficient for diabetes. This means that you have to change some habits and adapt your daily routine to life with a diabetic dog. However, a lot of what will still be unusual and problematic at the start, such as insulin injections, will get easier with time and will soon become routine.
How do I adapt my dog's diet?
It's impossible to give a general answer regarding the best food for diabetic dogs, as is also the case when enquiring about the best food for healthy animals. Dogs are very diverse and have equally different needs. Large dogs have different energy and nutrient requirements to small dogs, athletic dogs have different needs to “lapdogs” and elderly dogs to puppies. Hence, the right food for your diabetic dog depends on its age, breed, weight, sex and activity level. In order to determine the ideal diet for your dog, you should definitely seek advice from your vet or a canine nutrition expert.
Nevertheless, it helps to know which ingredients are inherently good for your diabetic dog and which are best avoided. As a result, the food – regardless of whether it is wet, dry or self-prepared – should be rich in high-quality proteins and fibre, such as raw fibre made from guar or wheat bran. Since fibre slows down the process of sugar transferring to the blood, it helps to keep the blood sugar level stable. In contrast, carbohydrates and particularly fats are both hard to digest and also lead to weight gain, thus should be reduced considerably. Caution should also be exercised with fruit, which often contains too much fructose. Sugar, sweeteners or even goodies are generally taboo.
How to determine the right diet for you dog:
- Consider age, breed, weight, sex and activity level
- Seek help from a vet
- Generally food should be rich in high-quality protein and fibre
Which foods to avoid:
- Specific fats
- Sugars, sweeteners, specific treats
Again, this all depends on your dog and every dog is different.
Pay attention to frequency
Rules as to when and how food should be consumed are just as important as the right ingredients. A well-ordered life is even more crucial for diabetic dogs than for those in good health. It's recommended to distribute the daily intake, which must absolutely be adhered to, over two or a maximum of three meals per day. Establish fixed times for filling your dog's food bowl and clean it afterwards, especially if your dog hasn't eaten everything. The breaks between meals must be respected in order to keep the blood sugar level balanced. Every snack in between or treat increases your dog's blood sugar. A tip is not just to discuss these rules with your family, but friends and neighbours too! Fresh drinking water should always be available to your dog.
Insulin injections need to be administered straight after meals so that they can take effect at the exact moment the sugar from the food enters the blood. Injecting insulin before meals can lead to dangerous hypoglycaemia if your dog suddenly spurns the subsequent meal.
What else can I do?
As is the case with all dogs, the right amount of exercise contributes to your own dog's health. Regular physical activity doesn't just help your dog to reach a healthy weight, but also has a positive effect on its blood sugar. The exercise routine should be just as well-ordered as meal times. The extent and duration should be the same every day – too strenuous blocks of exercise could lead to the blood sugar level dropping off in turn.
Of course, both your dog and you yourself first have to get used to these set rules. However, you should adhere to the new daily routine from the beginning in order to avoid complications, Your effort will definitely pay off: with the help of a needs-based diet and adapted exercise schedule, you will soon see that your dog can lead a healthy, happy and full life despite suffering from diabetes.