Diabetes in dogs is a chronic, lifelong health condition that can arise at any age, and that is often linked to hereditary causes, although this is not true in all cases.
Diabetes comes in two different variants as well, called type 1 and type 2 respectively. Dogs that have type 1 diabetes require the supplemental administration of insulin in order to accommodate for the fact that the dog’s pancreas doesn’t produce it, and dogs with the type 2 variant may require insulin injections as well, if their condition cannot be controlled with dietary and lifestyle changes alone.
When a dog is diagnosed as an insulin-dependent diabetic, they will need to receive insulin injections every day (usually morning and evening) for life – and once the condition is diagnosed and the correct dosage and management protocol established, most diabetic dogs will get on perfectly well thanks to the conscientious care of their owners and the occasional monitoring check-up with the vet.
However, as is the case when any medication or external agent is administered to a dog, complications and problems can potentially occur at some point – which is something that every owner of a diabetic dog should be aware of.
Managing diabetes itself requires vigilance and forward planning on the part of the owner, but issues that can arise from the use of insulin itself are thankfully fairly uncommon. That said, if your own dog is an insulin-dependent diabetic, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with some of the potential complications and side-effects that insulin can cause in dogs, even if they are relatively uncommon. Read on to learn more.
Getting the balance right when it comes to how much insulin your dog needs each day can take time when your dog is first diagnosed, but even when you get your dog back on an even keel, their needs may change as time goes on. This is why regular check-ups and testing is important, to allow your vet to adapt your dog’s treatment protocols to fit their needs.
Dogs can build up insulin resistance over time, which may require their dosage to be adjusted, and other health problems and illnesses, as well as the use of other medications as well, can potentially cause insulin resistance.
Virtually any substance or agent you can think of can be a potential allergenic trigger to some people or dogs, and finding out that your newly-diagnosed dog is allergic to their insulin can be hugely confusing and concerning for the dog’s owner.
However, dogs that are allergic to insulin are likely to be allergic to the source that the insulin was produced from – with the most common agent being pork, from which Vetsulin (the most widely used insulin used for dogs) is produced. If your dog proves to be allergic to a certain type of insulin, don’t despair – your vet will be able to recommend an alternative.
High levels of blood glucose that occur as a result of uncontrolled diabetes places the body into a state called hyperglycaemia, in which the level of glucose in the blood is much higher than it should be, due to the absence of insulin to control it.
The opposite of hyperglycaemia is hypoglycaemia, or a blood: glucose balance that is too low, and this state is generally recognised as the most common potential problem that can arise with insulin administration in dogs.
The insulin dosage that your dog requires needs to be matched to their glucose levels, and anything that occurs to throw this out of whack – such as if you administer your dog’s insulin dosage but they don’t eat enough to properly utilise it – can cause hypoglycaemia.
Hypoglycaemia in dogs tends to be acute in onset, and can quickly become very serious, even potentially leading to coma. Your vet will discuss the risks pertaining to hypoglycaemia with you when your dog is diagnosed as diabetic, and teach you to recognise the potential symptoms and prevent the condition arising.
If for any reason your diabetic dog does become hypoglycaemic, you should contact your vet immediately, and work quickly to rebalance their glucose levels. This will require the administration of a glucose-rich food to correct the imbalance, such as sugar water or honey.
Using a liquid product allows the body to absorb it more quickly, and honey is generally the preferred choice as it has already undergone the digestive process of the bees that produced it, further ensuring its rapid uptake by the dog’s body.
Having to inject your dog with insulin twice a day can be a challenge, but dogs soon get used to the process and may not even notice when you give them their injections. Whilst the needles used to administer insulin are small and fine, it is important to avoid continually injecting your dog in the same area of the body every time, as this can lead to localised soreness and irritation of the skin.