One in 500 dogs will be diagnosed with diabetes. While that may not seem like a startling amount, it is enough to make it important for all dog owners to recognize the symptoms and be aware off the treatment and diet considerations. While it may not happen to our dogs, it could happen to someone's dog we know, and early detection and diagnosis is important!
In humans, diabetes comes in two forms. Type 1 destroys the beta cells in the pancreas, making it impossible for the body to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes causes the same issue, but in many cases, the body is able to regenerate these beta cells. Unfortunately, dogs can only get type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes can be treated in dogs with the use of insulin. This requires dedication on the part of the owner to get regular veterinarian checkups, checking blood twice daily at home and administering insulin. As beta cells are destroyed, the body continues to make glucose but is unable to produce insulin. As the glucose multiplies in the body, the body starts using fat for energy, rather than the glucose. The dog will lose weight (body fat), can lose their vision, have seizures and suffer from ketoacidosis, which is an excess of ketones in the body.
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Symptoms of Diabetes
Early Symptoms include:
- Frequent Urination
- Increased water intake
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
If undetected, further symptoms include:
- Cataracts (cloudy eyes)
- Lethargy (tired, sleeping)
- Dramatic weight loss
If any of these symptoms occur, it is important to get the dog in as early as possible for a veterinarian check up, blood work and urinalysis. Additionally, whenever a dog has increased urination and water intake, it is a sign of a serious underlying condition.
Research has shown genetic links in some breeds, however diabetes is not always determined 'genetic' in all instances or in all breeds. The chart below shows which breeds are at a higher risk for genetic diabetes, with the breeds listed under neutral risk being less prone to the cause being 'genetic' but at risk from other causes:
Diabetes in dogs can be genetic, but it can also be caused by certain drugs such as steroids (i.e., prednisone), a virus causing an immune response, or poor diet coupled with obesity.
An excellent study was done on 182,087 dogs from 5 to 12 years of age over several years. It was shown that diabetes was most commonly found in older, female, overweight dogs. Of the 182,087 dogs tested, 860 tested positive for Diabetes Mellitus. This study, interestingly enough, found that dogs diagnosed with diabetes also tended to have other problems, which include being prone to urinary tract infections, ear infections, skin issues, hormonal issues, Cushing's Disease and pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis may well be an issue in diabetes due to beta cells, which are in the liver, being destroyed. This can result in a struggle to process fat, which can develop into an inflamed pancreas. You can find more information on the specifics of this at http://www.2ndchance.info/diabetesdog-Statistics1.pdf.
Another type of diabetes is diabetes insipidus. This is not about glucose but instead can be related to dogs missing the proper anti-diuretic hormone, an acquired issue (usually caused by medications), caused by a tumor or it can be idiopathic (no cause or reason found). For dogs with this type of diabetes, a normal diet is indicated, but water should never be withheld. These dogs need water around the clock and need to urinate frequently. For more information, see http://www.mirage-samoyeds.com/diabetes2.htm
I also think another cause of diabetes comes from diets high in carbohydrates (sugar) and poor protein sources (processed under high heat). Dogs are carnivores and require animal fat and protein to thrive. Dogs need the amino acids found in animal protein for healthy hearts, kidneys and liver. The liver is an organ that can regenerate itself to some degree, but needs high quality (fresh) protein in order to do so. Animal fat gives dogs energy and helps with hydration. Feeding a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates keeps glucose in the body level. When carbohydrates (sugars) are fed, sugar levels are more prone to go up and down.
Treatment for dogs with diabetes is utilized by injections made from porcine insulin. These injections are generally given every 12 hours to keep the dogs glucose levels stable. It is very important to follow your veterinarian's instruction on this therapy and to continue testing as requested to determine the correct dosage.
Regardless of the cause of diabetes, the diet would remain similar to what they were eating. However, much of the information given for dogs with diabetes comes from human research and is probably from Type 2 diabetes research. Dogs get Type 1 diabetes, not Type 2 diabetes. Diet changes are not always necessary unless the dog has a history of pancreatitis. However, I encourage a high amount of good quality protein with a medium to low amount of fat and a small amount of carbohydrates in a cooked diet. If you feed a raw diet, the carbohydrates are not needed.
There is some speculation that high carbohydrate diets made with poor quality, processed proteins may encourage some pancreas and adrenal issues, including diabetes. Adding steroids to this type of diet gives even a greater chance of developing these health issues.
Dogs are carnivores, and require animal-based proteins and fat for optimal health. I suggest preparing a reduced fat raw diet (remove chicken skin, use lower fat cuts of meat and trim away extra fat) or a low glycemic, low fat cooked diet. The cooked diet consists of 75% low fat protein sources (lean meats with the excess fat trimmed away from the cooked meats, egg whites with no yolk, low fat yogurt and cottage cheese), along with 25% low glycemic (low sugar) vegetables. The vegetables in a cooked diet are added as fiber so stools stay firm. In raw diets, the bone acts as the fiber and therefore, vegetables are not needed.
Meals need to be given at regular times during the day and it might be a good idea to give frequent, smaller meals (3-4) during the day, rather than 1-2 larger meals.
EPA Fish Oil Capsules. Studies have shown the EPA and DHA in fish oil are helpful in supporting the immune system and regulating blood sugar. The standard dose is one 1000mg gel cap per 10-20 lbs of body weight daily.
Berte’s Digestion Blend. This formula consists of digestive enzymes, which are helpful in pre-digesting fats in the stomach before reaching the pancreas, probiotics which aid digestion and support the immune system, and l-glutamine which keeps the digestive tract lining healthy. Dogs with diabetes can be prone to pancreatitis, so this blend is a good support.
Berte’s Immune Blend. This vitamin blend includes vitamin C, E, A, D, B vitamins, probiotics, and enzymes, which helps support the dog's immune system and promotes good health.
All of us at B-Naturals wish you a very Happy, Healthy and Joyous Holiday Season!
Don't forget to keep your dogs happy, healthy, and warm and well hydrated this winter!
Peace and Goodwill to All!