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Dealing With A Diabetic Dog That Refuses Food Or Won’t Eat Enough

A diagnosis of diabetes in your dog will have profound effects on how you care for them, as you will need to continually monitor them in order to keep the balance between their food intake and their insulin levels appropriate, to keep them healthy and well.

For dogs that require the supplemental administration of insulin, this necessitates injections of insulin usually twice a day, which is required in order to permit the dog to process their food properly, and to avoid spikes and dips in blood sugar, which can be dangerous and potentially life threatening.

Unlike the insulin prescribed for people, which is usually self-administered as needed, allowing people to vary when, what and how much they eat, insulin for dogs is generally given at set times each day in a longer acting, slower release format. This is generally the easiest and most effective way to manage insulin-dependent diabetes in the dog, and of course relies on the dog’s diet being stable in terms of feeding times, amount of food given, and how much the dog actually eats.

This means that if your diabetic dog misses a meal, it can have a profound effect on their health and lead to ever-more acute problems the longer that they go without food, as this will throw their entire blood: glucose balance out of whack.

For this reason, it is important to supervise your diabetic dog’s meals, to ensure that they eat what they are supposed to and in the right quantities, and so that if you have another dog to feed, you can be sure of what the diabetic dog has eaten.

If a diabetic dog won’t eat enough food to match their insulin dosage or if they are refusing to eat at all, this can become an acute problem very quickly, which may ultimately necessitate a trip to the vet.

In this article we will look at how to deal with a diabetic dog that won’t eat enough food, or that is refusing to eat altogether. Read on to learn more.

The risk of hypoglycaemia

For insulin-dependent diabetic dogs, the administration of insulin is vital and must match the food that the dog has eaten in terms of dosage. If the dog is fed without being given insulin they run the risk of developing hyperglycaemia, or a blood: glucose balance that is too high. This can be dangerous in and of itself, but the opposite problem is worse; hypoglycaemia, or too low blood: glucose, which develops if the dog has received insulin but not the food needed to process it.

For this reason, it is important to get into the habit of giving your dog their insulin after they eat, rather than before; this way, you can ensure that your dog is not given insulin on an empty stomach, and so, will not risk hypoglycaemia, which is acute and serious, and can prove fatal.

What to do if your dog will not eat

Assuming that you do give your dog their insulin after their meal and not before, if your dog will not eat or has only eaten a little, you should not administer that dose of insulin until they have eaten enough. However, if your dog has already had their insulin and will not eat the required amount of food within half an hour at the maximum, you must call your vet and explain what has happened, and they will almost certainly ask you to bring the dog into the clinic.

If your dog has not yet had their insulin and will not eat, you have a window of around an hour (or possibly a little more) within which you have some leeway to get some food into your dog, so that you can give them their normal dosage of insulin.

During this time, the first thing that you should do is assess why your dog is not eating, or won’t eat enough; are they coming down with something? Could they potentially have eaten something else that you did not know about? It is important to try to find this out, in terms of what your dog ate and how much of it.

If your dog’s stomach feels full and is making digestive noises when you listen to it up closely (rather than the rumblings that accompany hunger) you may also need to speak to your vet, because you may not know what or how much your dog has eaten.

If your dog’s stomach is making hungry rumblings or if there is no sound coming from it at all, the chances are that they have not eaten.

If you are not sure what your dog has eaten, or they have eaten some food but not their full portion, again, speak to your vet. The same applies if you think they might be ill; illness in diabetic dogs is more risky than for other dogs, due to the potential for digestive upset, and how this interferes with the dog’s blood: glucose balance.

However, if your dog simply appears to be uninterested in the food on offer or won’t eat enough of it, you have a certain amount of time to try to tempt them. If they are fed wet food, try warming this for a few seconds in the microwave, to make it more aromatic and potentially, more appealing for them. Also, check that the food bowls are clean and the food is not stale from sitting out (whether wet or dry) as this can put dogs off!

Trying to offer your dog food alternatives to their normal meals should not be done without speaking to your vet, due to the delicate balance required from the diet of the diabetic dog. Your vet may give you the ok to do this, but either way, carefully monitor what and how much your dog has eaten, in case you do need to speak to the vet later.

Feeding your dog their dry food piece by piece from your hand may help, and if your dog eats a combination, or has pouches of wet food for occasional use, try mixing a little of this up for them.

If your dog still will not eat after an hour for any reason, or you have any concerns, talk to your vet immediately.


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