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You must always seek advice from your vet before considering changing the diet of a diabetic dog because this can (and most probably will, unless the nutrient balance, ingredients and calorific value are identical) affect the insulin dosage. Changing the diet of an unstable diabetic can do more harm than good, especially if the vet is still trying to establish the correct treatment protocol. It is notoriously difficult to stabilise diabetic dogs and cats and this can sometimes take several weeks or even months.
There are two main methods of the nutritional management of diabetes. Some vets prefer the traditional approach (high in fibre and low in fat) whilst others prefer the more modern approach using a high protein, lower carbohydrate feed. There are several prescription diets available formulated specifically for the management of diabetes, and if your vet has recommended such a product it is advisable to use it for a reasonable period of time as this is an important part of the management of the condition. As above, if you wish to change your dog’s food in due course to a more economical or palatable product, then only do so with your vet’s permission. If a particular prescription diet is not being enjoyed or well digested, then let your vet know as soon as possible as change to an alternative product sooner rather than later may be recommended.
Regular commercial diets can sometimes be fed to a diabetic dog (suitability for the individual permitting). If your vet suggests that a higher fibre intake is necessary than what a “normal” feed would provide (as dogs with poor glycaemic control may benefit from an increased fibre intake); then a supplement can be added. A product formulated especially for dogs is the easiest to use as the dosage based on body weight will be included on the labelling. You do not want to give too much as this can decrease the nutrient value of the diet by binding minerals, as well as cause loose stools and flatulence.
Some non-prescription diets can safely be fed to stabilised diabetic dogs, so long as the vet is happy with your selection, and has scrutinised the labelling closely to ensure suitability first. Why not ask some manufacturers for brochures and other information? Be wary of free samples until you’ve narrowed down your selection as it can be tempting to offer them once you have them, and you do not want to introduce a new product too quickly, or introduce more than one at a time. Look for products which are highly digestible and formulated to ensure that the digestive and immune system can work easily with the ingredients in the recipe. Make sure there are no ingredients present that are known not to agree with your dog, and ensure the calorific value is appropriate for his appetite and bodily condition. Ask manufacturers to recommend products that are designed to promote a slow and steady energy release and stable blood sugar levels throughout the day rather than glucose peaks and troughs which naturally you would want to avoid in a diabetic animal. The ideal criteria for a diabetic food are that it has less than 7% in total of monosaccharides & disaccharides, and includes no added fructose.
This is paramount when stabilising a diabetic and will help the vet to be able to determine the correct type of insulin and the effective dose more quickly (if dealing with insulin dependent diabetes of course; like people - not all animals require insulin). No new types of treats or titbits should be given outside of mealtimes as this will affect the blood sugar level. Ensure you are feeding at the times specified by your vet (set an alarm clock to remind you if need be) and administering the correct amount of insulin at the correct times. Keep exercise consistent as this can have quite a dramatic effect on the blood sugar levels.
Keep your diabetic dog’s medical supplies tidy so that it is easy to see when you may be running low on insulin, syringes and other items such as Hypostop or other glucose preparation, urine sample containers, urine stick tests etc. Allow plenty of time to put in for repeat prescriptions, and do be aware that your vet will want to check on your dog regularly (especially in the case of a recent diagnosis).
It’s vital to ensure that everyone involved with the care of your diabetic dog knows exactly how to feed him and that someone else is able to administer his medication in an emergency if you are unavailable. Leave a list of dos and don’ts near to his medical supplies and food so that in the event of you being delayed arriving home or being taken ill, those taking care of your dog in your absence know what to do. Make sure your friends and family know the consequences that could arise if they give unscheduled treats or titbits. If more than one person in the family is responsible for the insulin injections, then mark when it has been administered on a special calendar so as to avoid missing a dose or giving a dose more than once.
We all hope and pray we’ll never lose our dog, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and a medical ID tag is a really good idea. Make sure you include your vet’s telephone number and your own, along with: “I am Diabetic, Please Call My Owner or Vet asap).
Just like with human diabetics, dogs with diabetes mellitus can live very long and happy lives so long as the condition is properly monitored and treated. Be aware of related problems that the diabetic dog can suffer from such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (which may be seen together with diabetes mellitus if there is damage to both the exocrine and endocrine pancreas), pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease cataracts, urinary tract problems and liver/renal dysfunction. Pancreatic, hepatic and renal conditions all require special nutritional management. Ketoacidosis is a very serious condition and this is characterised by “pear drop” smelling breath and urine.
The production of the progesterone hormone associated with oestrus or pregnancy may result in instability of the diabetes. For this reason, many vets prefer to neuter an unspayed diabetic bitch so long as her condition is suitable for anaesthesia and surgery. This is usually carried out before insulin therapy begins, and the insulin target tissue cells will often improve so that insulin demand decreases.
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