Diabetes mellitus, a condition whereby too much glucose (a sugar) stores in the blood from a lack of insulin, isn't curable, but it is treatable. It's best to try to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place. Dogs with diabetes may get cataracts, hardening of the arteries or retina, kidney or nerve disease. They are also at risk for urinary, skin and gum infections. Although taking preventive measures cannot guarantee your dog won't develop diabetes, it's a good idea to minimize risks.
Care for Older Dogs
Senior and middle aged dogs, 7 years and older, are more likely to get diabetes. Although you can't stop the aging process, you can become more aware of the needs of older dogs. Bring your geriatric dog to the vet twice a year instead of once a year so you can detect any problems early. Pet examinations for geriatric dogs are more comprehensive, and vets typically do routine screening tests. To screen for diabetes mellitus, a complete blood count and a urinalysis are done.
Keep the Weight Down
Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, and dogs keep getting fatter, according to Donna Spector, DVM, in DogFoodAdvisor. Put your dog on a diet that he can digest easily and that has protein as the main ingredient. The food should also contain anti-aging ingredients, such as the antioxidants vitamin E or beta-carotene.
It's also important to not overfeed your dog by allowing him to graze all day or by putting too much food in the bowl. Once you find out from your vet how many calories your dog should have per day, measure the food before you put it in the bowl so he gets the right amount of calories. Don't forget exercise, an important component of weight control. Your dog should get 30 minutes of exercise daily.
Watch for Pancreatitis
Dogs with pancreatitis, an inflamed pancreas that makes digestion and insulin production difficult, are at higher risk for developing diabetes. Obese dogs who eat a high-fat diet often found in table scraps are more prone to getting pancreatitis. Symptoms to look for are fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, dehydration and fatigue. Your vet can diagnose the condition. Pancreatitis can be treated at your vet's office.
Reconsider Certain Drugs
Some drugs can cause a side effect, which interferes with insulin, and that can lead to diabetes. It's uncommon for that to occur, but it is possible. Drugs that can cause diabetes in some dogs are cortisone-type drugs and hormones to control a dog in heat.
- The Bark: Preventing and Treating Canine Diabetes
- American Veterinary Medical Association: Senior Pet Care (FAQ)
- DogFoodAdvisor: How to Help Your Overweight Dog Lose Weight
- Washington State University: Diabetes Mellitus
- PetMD: Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Diabetes in Dogs -- Testing and Monitoring
- ASPCA: Feeding Older Dogs
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.