No Longer a Death Sentence for Your Dog

New research offers hope for controlling diabetes in dogs.

By | Posted: Wed May 24 00:00:00 PDT 2000

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Careful monitoring of diabetic dogs at home is as important as hospital testing. If a dog doesn't get enough insulin, its blood sugar remains too high, and chemicals called ketones build up in the blood, which can make the dog sick and eventually die. If the blood glucose level drops too low because of too much insulin, the dog may become weak, have seizures and become comatose and die if not treated in time. Owners learn the early warning signs of low blood sugar and can administer corn syrup orally at home as emergency treatment. "Observing the dog's appetite and activity level, as well as thirst and urination, are good indicators of how the dog is doing on insulin," Dr. Nelson said. Some veterinarians have owners check the dog's urine by dipping a test strip into a urine sample. A color change indicates the amount of glucose in the urine.

Some owners test blood at home. Meydam's dog, Melody, hasn't been easy to regulate, but home monitoring of blood glucose helps. "At first my veterinarian was very skeptical when I said I wanted to do it, but now he thinks it's absolutely wonderful," Meydam said. She uses a lancet, which human diabetics use to prick a finger to get blood, to make a small puncture on the inside of Melody's lip, then touches a glucose test strip to the drop of blood. A home analyzer called a glucometer reads out the blood glucose level. "Melody doesn't even flinch when I do the test," Meydam said. "If she's asleep, she usually doesn't even wake up." Meydam stressed the importance of checking with the dog's veterinarian before adjusting insulin dosing.

The amount and time of feeding are as important as the insulin. Time meals to reap peak insulin effects in the blood. High-fiber, low-fat diets help. To allow insulin to work best, trim down overweight dogs to their proper weight. Successful insulin therapy will help underweight dogs gain weight.

Using diet to help diabetic dogs is the focus of current research. Several discoveries were presented at the Iams Nutrition Symposium in San Francisco earlier this year. Dr. Nelson's research has shown how different percentages and types of soluble fiber can be added to a dog's diet to lower blood sugar. Certain dietary fiber that forms a thicker gel in the digestive tract is best at slowing absorption of glucose from a meal. This could help prevent harmful spikes of high blood glucose following a meal in a diabetic dog.

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