Canine Diabetes Frequently Asked Questions
How is canine diabetes diagnosed?
Your veterinarian should measure your dog's blood glucose and test your dog's urine for the presence of glucose and ketones. Persistently high blood glucose levels along with glucose in the urine usually means that your dog has diabetes mellitus.
How long will it take for my dog's blood sugar to reach the safe zone (150-200)?
With Ella, it took about 6 months. She started out with 2 units of insulin per shot, and I had her checked about once a month until she started to level off at 10 units for per shot.
How will my dog react to the insulin shots?
At first, it can be pretty rough. I first used syringes that were individually wrapped, and Ella learned to listen for the sound of me unwrapping one. She'd get very anxious and run underneath my bed. Eventually, I timed her injections with her feedings. Now, she knows that in order to get her treats, she has to be given a shot and things are much easier. For more help with giving your dog insulin shots, check out our guide.
Are some breeds more susceptible than others to diabetes mellitus?
Canine diabetes occurs in all breeds, but mostly female, overweight dogs that are middle-aged or older. Ella was diagnosed when she was 3 years old.
Can my dog live a full life with diabetes?
Yes! With proper monitoring, a healthy diet, and plenty of exercise; a diabetic dog can expect to live just as long as a non-diabetic dog.
Can I use insulin if it freezes?
Don't even think about it! It damages the molecules and renders the insulin useless. Also, cold insulin can be very painful when injected into a dog.
I think I've given my dog too much insulin! What should I do?
Monitor your dog carefully for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This can include hunger, restlessness, shivering, unsteadiness, and very low energy rendering them quiet or sleepy. If you see any of these signs, try to encourage your dog to eat a small meal. If they don't want to eat, rub glucose solution or honey on your pet's gums. If your dog continues to have signs of hypoglycemia, please contact a veterinarian.
What are some signs that might mean my dog has diabetes?
I first got concerned about Ella when she began vomiting frequently. She would then become very lethargic and barely move off of the couch. Her eyes would also get very blood shot and sometimes roll to the back of her head. When she couldn't keep any food or water down, I realized it was time to take her to the veterinarian. For a full list of symptoms, see our guide.
Will my dog lose weight?
Ella didn't lose weight until she started with the insulin injections. However, I know other people who have said that their dog started losing weight first, which is why they decided to take them to the vet. With Ella, I think the insulin injections allowed her pancreas to start digesting food again, instead of just storing it as fat, and she lost about 5 lbs in the first couple of weeks.
What's the rule of thumb with increasing insulin amounts?
Insulin is generally increased in 1/2 unit increments. 1 unit has the potential to increase the levels by 100! Results should begin showing in 2-3 days.
Are there other conditions that have the same signs as diabetes?
Yes, Cushing's disease and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency share the same symptoms as diabetes (frequent thirst, frequent urination, vomiting, lethargy) so it is important that dogs displaying these symptoms be taken to the vet. He/she will measure your dog's blood and urine glucose concentrations to determine if your dog has diabetes.
Can my dog's diabetes be cured?
Unfortunately, no. Almost all diabetic dogs have type 1 diabetes, which means that their pancreas no longer makes insulin. Type 1 diabetics will need injections of insulin daily to help control their diabetes. People and cats often have type 2 diabetes so their disease is different than in dogs. Type 2 diabetics suffer from insulin resistance rather than a true lack of insulin. Type 2 diabetes can often be reversed with proper control of diet, exercise, and reducing other insulin resistance factors.
Will I need to give my dog injections? How often will my dog need to be injected?
Twice daily insulin injections, every 12 hours, are usually required to help control your dog’s glucose levels and make up for his/her body’s lack of natural insulin. If injections make you nervous, you are not alone. I hated it at first, but it does get easier and you’ll quickly get used to the new routine.
Will the injections hurt my dog? What if I can't find a vein?
The injections are done just under the skin, I pull the skin between the shoulder blades and they are said to be painless. Of course, we can't ask the dog if they feel any pain, but Ella has no reaction when the needle is injected. Oh, and you DON'T need a vein! Those are different types of injections. Actually, you should avoid veins!
What is insulin resistance?
A dog’s body can become less sensitive to the effects of insulin for a variety of reasons, including stress, hormones, infection, or obesity. If you feel your dog is not responding well to the insulin, don’t just increase the dose of insulin without talking to your veterinarian. An increased dose could lead to serious side effects. Your veterinarian will need to verify that it is insulin resistance and, if so, will likely recommend several changes.