Ask Dr. Greco: Frequently Asked Questions About Canine Diabetes


 

Q:   Should I test my dog’s blood sugar at home using a blood glucose meter?   

A:   A blood glucose meter can be helpful to determine if your pet is having a hypoglycemic episode (low blood sugar), but I would not use it routinely to monitor blood sugar.

Daily checking of your dog's behavior and regular urine testing, along with regular visits to your veterinarian, will be more helpful for your dog's regulation. 

Deborah Greco, DVM, PhD, ACVIM with Martini (right) and Twist (left) 

Q: Are cataracts the only major complication my dog can get from diabetes? 

A:   Cataracts are the primary VISIBLE complication of diabetes. However, the same processes (high blood sugar) that caused the cataracts are also affecting other organs in the body. Infections are the other primary complication associated with diabetes, with urinary tract infections seen in about 50% of diabetic dogs. 
     
Q: Can my dog’s cataracts be removed? 
A: Most - but not all - cataracts can be surgically removed. A board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist can remove the cataracts using special equipment. However, some dogs may remain blind even after the cataracts are gone. 
     
Q: What dog foods are best for a diabetic dog? 
A: I recommend dry dog food that is low in fat for a diabetic dog's diet. Small amounts of low-fat canned food may also be used (but not as the dog's only food). Most commercial dog foods are nutritionally balanced and can be used for diabetic dogs unless the dog has some other medical condition that requires a special diet. It is important that the dog like the food that you feed it. Semi-moist foods should be avoided completely because they are high in fat (these look like hamburger meat in a plastic pouch). 
     
Q: My dog has diabetes, and I need to travel every now and then. How can I find a kennel that can handle a diabetic dog? 
A: Your veterinarian might be able to refer you to a kennel that has qualified staff. Some veterinarians also have boarding facilities. You might also explore hiring a veterinary technician or veterinary student to care for your diabetic dog in your own home. 
     
Q: What foods can I cook at home for my diabetic dog? 
A: Generally, home cooked diets can be deficient in important vitamins and minerals so they should be avoided. If you really want to prepare your dog's food, you can find some reliable recipes at the Animal Protection Institute's web site (www.api4animals.org) and in this book: Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative. Donald R. Strombeck, DVM. Iowa State University Press. ISBN 0813821495. It is important that you talk to your veterinarian before starting your dog on home cooked meals, because the dog's insulin doses will probably have to be changed. 
     
Q: Can I inject my dog in the shoulder in the morning, and in the flank at night? 
A: Yes. It is important to rotate the insulin injection sites. However, since different areas of the body absorb insulin at different rates, it is advisable to follow the rule: "same time, same place". In other words, always use the shoulders for the morning injection, and the flanks for the evening injection. 
     
Q: Are there alternatives to insulin injections? 
A: Not yet, but researchers are working on new therapies. 
     
Q: Are there any vitamin or mineral supplements that will reduce my dog's dependence on insulin?
A: No. Dogs generally have type 1 diabetes. Their pancreas produces no insulin at all, so they need insulin injections in order to survive. Vitamins and minerals cannot replace the action of insulin. If you give your dog vitamin supplements, you still need to give it insulin injections.
     
Q: How long will my dog live after being diagnosed with diabetes? 
A:   Your dog can have a normal lifespan if you keep its blood glucose under control. 
     
Q: My dog is vomiting and has diarrhea. Should I still give him his insulin injection? 
A: If your dog is vomiting or not eating, you should give one-half the dose of insulin and contact your veterinarian immediately. If your dog has diarrhea only, withhold food for 24 hrs and reduce the insulin dose by one-half. 
     
Q: How much water should I let my dog drink? 
A: As much as it wants. Water intake should never be restricted in a diabetic dog. However, you should observe how much your pet usually drinks. If it starts to drink a lot more each day, call your veterinarian, because its insulin dosage may need adjustment. 
     
Q: Can I inject insulin into my dog's rump?  How does this injection site compare to the ones recommended on the BD website? 
A: Yes, you can inject insulin into the rump as long as it is a subcutaneous injection--- in other words, do not inject into the muscle of the rump.  In terms of insulin absorption, the rump compares well with the other recommended sites---just make sure Fido doesn't sit on the needle!
     
Q: Can I use my dog's jugular vein for blood glucose testing? 
A: Veterinarians can do this but I do not recommend it for pet owners.  Jugular venipuncture is more difficult to master and remember that the carotid artery is right next to the jugular.  Be sure you know what you are doing or you might end up with a serious or fatal injury to your pet.  If you have trouble obtaining a blood sample from your dog's ear or lip, try its toenail, the cephalic vein that runs on the top of its forearm, or the side of its hind leg, below the hock (this is called the lateral saphenous). Your veterinarian can show you these exact locations.
  
 

Q: Are BD diabetes products covered by pet insurance? 
A: It depends on your insurance plan and its maximum reimbursement for diabetes. Some pet insurance plans give a maximum benefit per year for diabetes expenses, such as $300.  Other plans give a maximum diabetes benefit over the life of your pet, such as $3,000.  If you do not spend the entire reimbursement benefit on veterinary bills, then you can submit the insulin and syringe receipts for partial reimbursement. 

 


The BD Diabetes Learning Center describes the causes of diabetes, its symptoms, and diabetes complications such as retinopathy and neuropathy. This site contains detailed information about blood glucose monitoring, insulin injection and safe sharps disposal. Interactive quizzes, educational literature downloads and animated demonstrations help to teach diabetes care skills.

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