If your dog is suffering from canine diabetes, all is not necessarily lost. Properly formulated diabetic dog food created by a canine nutritionist has the potential to offer your dog a drug free, normal life. But exactly what is canine diabetes, and how can it best be managed?
About canine diabetes mellitus
Virtually unheard of fifty years ago, canine diabetes mellitus has become a modern epidemic. Insurer Animal Friends has suggested that incidence of the disease has increased by 900% in the last 5 years.
In America, occurrence of the disease has more than tripled since 1970. Opinions as to the cause of the increase vary. But a great many lay the problem squarely at the door of commercial dog food manufacturers.
What is Canine diabetes mellitus?
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease which affects dogs and humans alike. (A chronic disease is one defined as a disease of lasting duration which cannot be cured but can be successfully managed).
A now common metabolic disorder, diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes), the type of diabetes most commonly seen in dogs, occurs when the interplay of glucose and insulin is out of balance. When either your dog’s body stops producing insulin, known as insulin-deficiency diabetes, or the cells in your dog’s body are unable to use the insulin being produced. This is known as insulin-resistance diabetes.
In the case of insulin-deficiency diabetes, your dog’s pancreas may be compromised or damaged which means it fails to produce sufficient insulin for its requirements. This is the most common type of canine diabetes, recognised by the Royal Veterinary College as IDD.
In the case of insulin-resistance diabetes, the pancreas continues to produce insulin but your dog’s body fails to recognise it as such so is unable to utilize it. This type of diabetes occurs more commonly in elderly or overweight dogs. It is recognised by the Royal Veterinary College as IRD.
In either case the result is the same. Your dog’s body fails to extract and utilize the nutrients (sugars/glucose) from its food. These remain in the bloodstream instead of feeding the cells in your dog’s body to provide energy. Just as petrol provides the energy required by your car, glucose provides the energy needed by your dog.
So while your dog’s body literally starves because of its inability to harness the goodness in these nutrients, the sugars remain in the bloodstream where they can potentially damage other organs such as the kidneys and heart. They can also damage the eyes, blood vessels and nerves.
To add insult to injury, it also means that your dog’s body uses much-needed fats and proteins for energy instead of glucose. It’s what one might call a double edged sword!
While canine diabetes is on the increase, if caught early enough, the disease is more than manageable. If fed an appropriately adjusted diet combined with a regular exercise regime and a vet-prepared treatment and management program, diabetic dogs can still live long and happy lives.
Incidentally, while diabetes in humans is classified in terms of being either type I or type II, dogs can only suffer from a form of the disease that is broadly similar to our type I diabetes. Neither type as it’s known in humans exactly matches canine diabetes mellitus, but the canine version of the disease is closer to our type I diabetes.
Causes of canine diabetes
There are a number of potential causes of canine diabetes. These include:
Breed predisposition is a major contributory factor in determining whether or not your dog is more or less likely to develop diabetes.
Predisposed breeds include the Australian Terrier, Beagle, Bichon Frise, Cairn Terrier, Dachshund, Fox Terrier, Keeshond, Poodle, Pug, Samoyed, Schnauzer (Miniature and Standard) and Spitz. That having been said, any breed or any mixed breed can develop diabetes at some point in their lives.
While canine diabetes can occur at any age, it is more likely to occur in middle to old age. It has been suggested that up to 70% of dogs are over the age of seven when they are diagnosed. Breed predisposition can increase the likelihood of a puppy developing the disease, as can discovery of the disease in a family member of your dog or puppy. That said, diabetes in puppies is rare.
While opinions vary greatly, it certainly seems that diabetes occurs more commonly in female than male dogs. And if it was possible to single out one specific category of dog more prone than any others, it would be older, overweight, female dogs.
Although not a direct cause of diabetes, obesity contributes to insulin resistance. This in turn can lead to an increased likelihood of a dog developing the disease.
Other health conditions
Certain health conditions are known to predispose a dog to developing diabetes. These include Cushing’s Disease (excess production of cortisol), and Pancreatitis, which literally means inflammation of the pancreas. Certain viral diseases and autoimmune disorders are also considered triggers for the disease as is prolonged use of certain steroid drugs.
A highly processed, high fat, high carbohydrate commercial diet is considered by many to be the root cause of a great many modern canine illnesses. This includes diabetes.
As with pancreatitis, diabetes mellitus is frequently associated with a poor diet. And suffering from pancreatitis puts a dog at greater risk of developing diabetes as well. Diabetic dog food can deal with all these potential issues!
There are those who believe that incidence of diabetes mellitus has increased in modern times due to over stimulation of the immune system caused by an increase in unnecessary vaccinations. This can cause the development of a hyperactive immune system in some dogs resulting in the destruction of insulin secreting cells.
Most vets today insist on annual vaccinations for dogs despite strong evidence that at best dogs only need revaccinating every three to five years. A great many holistic veterinarians consider such annual boosters not only unnecessary but in many cases positively harmful. I personally consider their many side-effects way outnumber their benefits. And I count myself among a growing number who never have their dogs vaccinated after their initial course of vaccinations. Instead, I rely on a good, healthy and natural diet to keep my dogs well.
As human beings, we don’t have ourselves or our children inoculated every year. Why should we treat our canine children any differently? Especially when there’s strong evidence to indicate that those vaccinations are both unnecessary and potentially damaging to the health of man’s best friend.
Symptoms of canine diabetes
The signs that your dog may be suffering from diabetes include:
Increased urination (polyuria)
This happens because the kidneys cannot filter the excessive amount of sugar in the bloodstream which causes it to spill from the bloodstream into the urine. When this happens, it carries with it water from the bloodstream which results in more frequent urination.
Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
Because of its increased urination, your dog is likely to become dehydrated. So, over time, he or she will feel the need to drink increasing amounts of water to compensate. Your dog will drink more because he or she is urinating more – not the other way around!
Increased appetite (polyphagia)
Because they’re not getting sufficient glucose (energy or fuel) as a result of the lack of insulin, the cells in your dog’s body will be telling your dog to eat more food because it thinks it needs it.
Despite having a ravenous appetite, your dog may still lose weight because its body is no longer efficiently converting the nutrients from its food into energy. This results in your dog’s body using muscle and fats for energy instead. This explains the resultant weight loss.
While there are a number of potential causes for weight loss in your dog, including the likes of cancer, liver disease, chronic kidney disease and gastrointestinal problems, these generally result in a dog going off its food. If however the weight loss is coupled with a ravenous appetite, it can be a sign of diabetes.
More advanced symptoms when the initial signs of diabetes remain undetected, uncontrolled, and untreated can include protein in the urine, an enlarged liver and elevated cholesterol levels (hyperlipidemia), along with:
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections are a common occurrence in diabetic dogs due to the volume of bacteria-attracting sugar in the urine.
It has been said that up to 80% of dogs with untreated diabetes mellitus will eventually develop cataracts to some degree. They are one of the most common long-term complications of canine diabetes. As a result, diabetic dogs are at an increased risk of blindness.
Poor skin and coat condition
On any occasion when the body is effectively fighting itself, the dog’s largest organ, its skin, tends to suffer. Your dog’s vital organs take first call on any available nutrients meaning that the hair and coat condition invariably begin to decline.
If your dog’s diabetes remains undetected and untreated, a potentially life-threatening state of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can come about. This can result in vomiting, poor appetite (anorexia), lethargy, panting and weakness as your dog’s blood becomes acidic as its body starts to burn fat for energy because of the lack of insulin.
(Burning fat can result in harmful levels of ketones in the blood. This can lead to hyperglycemia if blood glucose levels rise too high, which can in turn lead to ketoacidosis).
Because of the lack of energy, your dog may appear to be depressed. At this stage, a whole series of symptoms can appear. These can include tiredness, stiffness and just a general lack of interest in everything.
Bear in mind however that certain of these symptoms can also be indicators of other diseases. Increased urination and thirst could be linked to chronic kidney disease and to liver disease. Undiminished appetite could be linked to hyperthyroidism and certain cancers.
Diagnosis of canine diabetes
If you suspect your dog may be suffering from diabetes, early intervention is imperative. Early intervention can greatly affect the outcome of the disease for your dog. Diagnosis is relatively simple and generally involves a number of blood tests and a urinalysis. While diabetes is not the only cause of a high blood glucose level, further testing should rule out the likes of acute pancreatitis or amyloidosis.
It’s important to note that with early detection, diabetes is an easily managed disease!
Treatment of canine diabetes
The treatment for canine diabetes mellitus very much depends on how early the disease is diagnosed. With early diagnosis, an improved diet, a weight management regime and regular exercise, most dogs can continue to live a perfectly normal, active and happy life without too much further medical intervention.
That said, insulin is considered a medical necessity for any dog suffering from diabetes mellitus. Once diagnosed, your vet is likely to recommend a scheduled treatment plan. This will include periodic blood and urine tests together with home-administered daily insulin injections to help the body’s cells use its glucose more efficiently. These will be performed by you with training provided by your vet.
Managing canine diabetes
At regularly scheduled veterinary appointments, your dog’s weight, appetite, drinking, urinating frequency and general demeanour will help determine how well your dog’s diabetes is being managed. And whether or not any adjustments need to be made to keep your dog well.
Your vet will help you create a treatment and management plan to help you manage your dog’s diabetes. This will include a complete diet and exercise regime.
Diabetic dog food
If your dog’s diabetes is detected in its early stages, its diet is the key to effectively managing the disease. If you feed your dog kibble (dry dog biscuit), that is the first thing that should change.
Dry commercial dog food is inherently unhealthy. Made with byproducts, unhealthy additives and unnatural preservatives, it is responsible for a huge percentage of modern canine health problems. If you want your dog to recover and to live a normal healthy life, you should ideally feed a proper homemade diabetic dog food.
Commercial so-called prescription diets are not the answer. They are still nutritionally compromised, highly processed synthetic products. You need either to consider adopting a raw diet for your dog or change to lightly cooked homemade food. Nothing more than homemade diabetic dog food will do if you seriously want to get to grips with your dog’s diabetes!
I have created a feeding guide for diabetic dogs which is available for immediate download. It includes recipes and advice on how to manage your dog’s diabetes with wholesome diabetic dog food.
Alternatively, for a personalised feeding plan for your dog, please book a consultation and we will work together to improve your dog’s prospects moving forward.
Please, please remember. If your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, it is entirely possible to cure this disease with the correct diet. Only homemade diabetic dog food is capable of achieving this. If you choose to feed your dog a so-called prescription diet, you are sentencing your dog to diabetes for life!