If your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, regularly monitoring their blood-glucose or blood-sugar levels is an integral part of caring for your dog, and ensuring that the balance of insulin they receive or how their diabetes is managed by means of their diet is appropriate for their needs.
Blood-sugar monitoring is something that needs to be checked regularly, even if your dog has lived with diabetes for many years, and their treatment protocols have the condition kept well under control.
In this article, we will look at the various imbalances and anomalies between the blood-sugar balance that can occur in diabetic dogs, what these mean, and how to test for them. Read on to learn more.
The blood-sugar level of your dog is measured in terms of mg/dL, or milligrams of glucose (sugar) per decilitre of blood, returning a figure of the amount of glucose present in your dog’s bloodstream, which should of course be maintained within safe parameters.
The normal healthy blood-sugar range in the dog can vary between 100-180mg/dL, and keeping the diabetic dog’s parameters between this range is important to keep the diabetic dog healthy.
Lower than usual blood-sugar in the dog is called hypoglycaemia, and while high blood-sugar is a more common complication of canine diabetes, low blood-sugar can be just as much of an issue.
A blood-sugar range of 90mg/dL is considered to be heading towards the edges of the safe side of a low or hypoglycaemic blood-sugar range, and at this stage, care should be taken to prevent the blood-sugar balance falling further, which may be dangerous. Low blood-sugar levels in the dog can lead to symptoms such as loss of bladder control, blurred vision and even seizures, and can even lead to a diabetic coma and potential fatality if the issue is not promptly corrected.
Assuming that the dog’s blood-sugar balance is corrected promptly before it falls too low, your dog should return to health and normal function very quickly.
A high blood-sugar balance is called hyperglycaemia, and is defined as a blood sugar reading of 180mg/dL or higher. Overly high blood-sugar readings in the dog are more common than low readings, and this is one of the ongoing issues for management that the owners of diabetic dogs commonly face.
If your dog’s blood-sugar balance regularly exceeds 180mg/dL or rises high above this range, they will be at potential risk of long term organ damage and other problems, and even potentially death.
If your dog’s blood-sugar balance is higher than the accepted safe range, they will tend to show signs of lethargy and tiredness, as well as an increased desire to drink and urinate. Excessively high levels of glucose in the blood can place additional strain on the kidneys, as they work to flush the excess out of the dog’s system, as well as placing additional strain on the heart as it works to pump blood around the body.
A high blood-sugar level over a prolonged period of time can also cause glucose sugars to crystallise within the eyes, leading to the potential for cataracts and other eye issues developing.
When your dog is first diagnosed with diabetes, your vet will prescribe your dog a blood-glucose monitoring unit and testing strips, and show you how to use them properly. During the early days after your dog is first diagnosed, they may need to spend a few days in the clinic to undergo blood-glucose curve testing, to allow your vet to see how their blood-sugar peaks and troughs on its own and so, devise the best form of treatment.
Testing is usually performed by making a small nick or needle puncture in the ear of the dog, to get a small drop of blood to work with.
How often you will need to test your dog’s blood-sugar balance at home will depend on your vet’s advice, and how stable your dog appears from day to day under their treatment regime, which will usually need to be reviewed from time to time.
Dogs that live a very routine lifestyle in terms of exercise and feeding and whose diabetes is under control may need testing as infrequently as every week or so, while some dogs that are more delicate (such as particularly small breeds, for which getting the balance just right can be a challenge) or that have a very active or varied lifestyle may need testing every day, or several times per day if they are working hard.
Balancing the blood-sugar levels of the dog in the long term depends on a whole range of factors, including diet and lifestyle, what your dog is fed, how well this suits them, and the need for insulin administration.
Regular monitoring and reviewing of your diabetic dog’s insulin levels and management protocols are all integral parts of keeping the diabetic dog healthy and well for the long term.