Dealing with Diabetes Q & A with Dr Candice Cooper

17th Sep, 2019

Dealing with Diabetes Q & A with Dr Candice Cooper

My precious dog, Kylie, has recently been diagnosed with diabetes. This has been an extremely stressful and overwhelming experience for both of us. At first I thought I’d never be able to cope, but now, after two weeks, I’m proud to say I am managing.
She doesn’t like getting the insulin injections and knows when it’s time to administer them, which leaves me feeling so guilty for “hurting” her, even though I know it’s vital for her condition. 

With many questions about diabetes, I wonder if you can answer but a few, please.

Gail King – Edenvale

Will having diabetes shorten Kylie’s life?
If managed well, then no; but as with humans, it does impact the type of life she can lead.

I take her to training once a week, which she really enjoys. Will exercise impact on her condition?
Yes. We need to keep her food intake and exercise levels as consistent as possible, as these both have an impact on her blood sugar (glucose) levels and will influence how much insulin she’ll need to receive.

Is there any way I can monitor her sugar levels, and can I test them myself?
Yes, there are glucose monitors that you can learn to use at home – your vet will help you. It’s important to measure her sugar levels at the same time every day.

I’ve got her on a diabetic diet. Can I add anything to it, like chicken? It’s very bland and she’s extremely hungry.
A low carbohydrate treat like plain boiled, skinned and deboned chicken breasts are okay, but, again, remember consistency is key.

Any changes in her diet will influence her blood sugar levels and thus her insulin requirements. Another key point is that many of the pets I diagnose with diabetes are overweight. Diabetic diets are formulated to maintain a good body condition; adding extra calories to her diet is not going to help with this.

Remember that diabetic pets are hungry because their bodies are struggling to use the calories they have, not because they aren’t eating enough. This should improve once you’ve figured out her ideal insulin dose and her blood sugar levels have stabilised.

What can I look for or expect if she refuses her food?
Do not give her insulin if she refuses her food as this will cause her blood sugar to drop too low, which can be life-threatening.

Rather get her to a vet quickly to check why she isn’t eating.

How often does she need a check-up with the vet, and does this condition stabilise at any stage?
I usually see my patients weekly until their blood sugar has stabilised. Keeping exercise and diet constant really helps achieve this much quicker. Once we’ve worked out the ideal management plan for a pet, the condition does usually remain nice and stable, and I see my patients every six months for a check-up, unless there are any concerns before then.

Can she have the occasional doggie treat?
I know I keep saying it, but with this condition in particular, consistency really is key! Low carbohydrate, protein-based treats are okay, but again try and give them consistently, i.e. same treat, same amount, same time to keep her sugar levels constant.

By Dr Candice Cooper

Is your pet excessively thirsty, polishing off their water bowl multiple times a day, and needing to urinate a lot? Have you noticed that they’re asking to go outside more frequently or have started having accidents in the house? Are they suddenly losing weight even though they have an above-normal appetite?

If you answered yes to the above, then alarm bells should be sounding loudly.

If these signs don’t prompt a vet visit and diagnosis, the disease will progress to a more advanced stage and you may see a loss of appetite, lack of energy, depression and vomiting. Ultimately, if left untreated, your pet could die.  

How is diabetes diagnosed?
Your vet will perform a clinical exam and assess at-risk pets. It may help to note down any symptoms your pet is having to help make an accurate diagnosis.

Blood and urine tests will be run to check for excess blood glucose (sugar). Blood tests will also indicate if the liver or electrolytes have been affected. It’s very important to diagnose this disease as soon as possible, because the earlier it’s diagnosed, the better it can be managed.

How is it treated?
The mainstay of diabetes treatment is insulin injections and dietary management with the goal of reducing clinical signs and preventing low blood sugar.

We work closely with pet parents to determine their pet’s ideal insulin dose, as this is individually calculated according to that pet’s specific lifestyle. Dietary management is geared to optimise body weight by correcting obesity and preventing weight-loss as a result of diabetes. It’s important to monitor your pet’s food intake and appetite.

Regular and appropriate exercise also forms an important part of a weight management plan.

What does the future hold?
Diabetes has a good prognosis with veterinary support to help you manage your pet’s condition.

I strongly advise working closely with your vet and consulting them before making any changes to your pet’s lifestyle (this includes diet, treats, exercise) as these have a profound impact on their blood sugar levels.