How to Prevent Diabetes in Dogs
Diabetes is prevalent in humans, but did you know that it can also affect dogs? The canine version differs in some aspects from the human version, but there is one important thing they have in common: they’re both diseases that can drastically decrease the patient’s quality of life.
It goes without saying that every fur parent would want to do their utmost to prevent this from happening to their dogs. And though it is not possible to guarantee that your pooch won’t get diabetes, there are actions you can take to help lessen their risk.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus, also known as diabetes, is a hormonal disorder that results in chronically elevated blood sugar levels. For an endocrinopathy, it’s pretty common, with prevalence rates ranging from 0.32-0.36%.
As in humans, the amount of glucose dogs have in their blood is regulated primarily by the hormones secreted by the pancreas. Glucagon, produced by pancreatic alpha cells, serves to increase the blood sugar levels by releasing the glucose stored in various cells in the body into the bloodstream. On the other hand, insulin, produced by the pancreatic beta cells, serves to decrease blood sugar levels by promoting cellular uptake of blood glucose from the bloodstream.
Diabetes mellitus occurs when blood sugar stays elevated due to insulin-related dysfunction--it’s either there is no or little insulin produced, or there is insulin produced but the cells no longer respond to it. Insulin can be thought of as the key that opens the door for glucose to enter the cells. The muscles, heart, and brain all rely solely on insulin to get their energy fixed--without correcting this issue, a lot of complications can arise.
The most common reasons for poor insulin production in dogs are destruction of beta cells by the animal’s own immune system, or severe inflammation of the pancreas. The most common cause of insulin resistance is hormonal disorders such as Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism.
What are the symptoms of canine diabetes?
The classical signs of canine diabetes are easy to overlook if you don’t know your dog’s habits. Early symptoms include polyuria-polydipsia, or increased urine output and increased water intake, and polyphagia or eating more, despite losing weight. Other signs can occur due to secondary pathological changes to organs, including cataracts, kidney failure, and seizures.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of medical conditions that can cause the same symptoms as diabetes. You will need to consult a vet for diagnostic tests that can measure your dog’s blood sugar levels in order to confirm this diagnosis and what’s causing it.
Prevention strategies for canine diabetes
Watch your dog’s weight.
Obesity results when animals eat more calories than they burn off. The excess gets stored in fat cells in the body, accumulating over time to the point that it changes the body’s external appearance. The increased adipose tissue can predispose your dog to insulin resistance, which can progress to diabetes.
Unfortunately, pet obesity rates are on the rise. As much as 54% of dogs in the United States are considered obese. The problem is, owners do not see it. This phenomenon, called the “fat pet gap”, has fur parents thinking that their obese dogs look normal and healthy and that what is actually normal and healthy is considered too thin. Since dogs come in all shapes and sizes, it is important to know what is considered a good body condition in your specific dog.
If you’re giving commercial dog food, make sure to follow the feeding instructions. If you are using homemade diets, be sure to consult a vet or animal nutritionist to create the diet and know how much to give per serving.
And don’t forget to give your dog lots of exercise and playtime! Part of being a responsible dog owner is to provide 30 minutes to 2 hours’ worth of exercise every day. Generally, the bigger the dog, and the more athletic the dog breed, the longer the workout. But be sure to match the activity to your dog’s health conditions to ensure that they don’t overexert themselves.
Avoid large, fatty meals.
Fats have a bad rep, but the truth is they are extremely important to the health of your dog. However, it should come in the right amounts--not too much, and not too little. A sudden and dramatic shift to a high-fat diet may cause pancreatitis. When the beta cells are affected by the inflammatory process, they may not be able to produce insulin. When this occurs over a period of time, it can lead to diabetes mellitus.
Therefore, it is important that you monitor not just the quantity of your dog’s food, but the quality too. Make sure your pooch gets a complete and balanced diet that is appropriate for their age and health status. In addition, you may want to consider giving natural pet supplements. These contain ingredients that provide benefits on top of meeting the nutritional needs of your pet. For example, mushroom supplements such as alchemypet’s Immunity Booster helps improve your dog’s immune system, leading to a higher resistance against stress.
Spay your female dog.
Several studies have found that middle-age, intact female dogs are more likely to get diabetes than other demographics. The reason for this is likely because of hormonal fluctuations during their estrous cycle and during pregnancy. Progestogens induce a temporary resistance to the effects of insulin, but imbalances may lead to the condition being permanent. Spaying can not only help prevent diabetes mellitus, but also a host of other diseases including mammary tumours.
Follow your vet’s drug prescription.
Overuse of potent medications such as steroids and cyclosporins may induce diabetes mellitus. These drugs are used for their anti-inflammatory properties, but they also cause derangements in glucose blood levels with chronic administration. It is for the same reason that Cushing’s disease, a hormonal disorder leading to increased endogenous steroids, also predisposes dogs to diabetes mellitus.
On the other hand, antibiotics like trimethoprim sulfa and anti-seizure medications such as potassium bromide can cause pancreatitis when given in excessive amounts. Long-term inflammation will damage the health of the insulin-producing beta cells and predispose the dog to diabetes mellitus.
Making sure that you stick to the treatment protocol given by your veterinarian and using the right high quality, well designed pet health supplement helps to lessen the risk of drug-induced diabetes mellitus.
Behrend, E., Holford, A., Lathan, P., Rucinsky, R., & Schulman, R. (2018). 2018 AAHA Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 54(1), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.5326/JAAHA-MS-6822
Fall, T., Hamlin, H. H., Hedhammar, A., Kämpe, O., & Egenvall, A. (2007). Diabetes mellitus in a population of 180,000 insured dogs: incidence, survival, and breed distribution. Journal of veterinary internal medicine, 21(6), 1209–1216. https://doi.org/10.1892/07-021.1
Hardy, O. T., Czech, M. P., & Corvera, S. (2012). What causes the insulin resistance underlying obesity?. Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity, 19(2), 81–87. https://doi.org/10.1097/MED.0b013e3283514e13