A dog with diabetes

This blog is going away from my normal theme of education and regulation to talk about something else that a relatively select audience might find useful. It is not my aim to tell you about diabetes in dogs (I am not a vet) I just wanted to add an owner’s perspective if it is something you are being faced with. There are several good websites that explain the condition and what to look out for, the PDSA have good information at https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/diabetes-in-dogs#contents-link-6  

When our ‘Frank’ was eight years old we noticed that he started to drink a lot and then apparently lose control of his bladder, producing a lot of fluid. It all seemed to happen over a short period of time. A visit to the vet for a blood test confirmed our fears, he had become diabetic. Initially it was a shock and although we have had many many dogs over the years this was new to us, we did not know what the future held for him or us but it was a steep learning curve and we had to learn very quickly.

The first few weeks were spent getting used to feeding him twice a day 12 hours apart followed by injecting him with insulin. The dose was slowly increased until we stabilised his blood sugar at a healthy and steady level. Once that was done the worst was over, he looked and behaved like there was nothing wrong with him.

We questioned what effect it would have on him in the long term and were told he should have a normal life as long as the regime was maintained. We were also told some shocking statistics about the number of dogs that get put to sleep (PTS) because of their diabetes. The main problem is the commitment required by the owners and many cannot adjust their lifestyle to accommodate the dogs needs or are not insured and cannot afford the vet bills. Apparently 50% of dogs are PTS on diagnosis and a further 35% don’t get past 3 months. The average life expectancy of the remaining 15% is 2 years from diagnosis and the common factor in nearly all cases is the inability of the owners to cope with the dog’s needs, for whatever reason. Our Frank is now 14 and rapidly approaching the sixth anniversary of his diagnosis, he has been injected about 4,000 times. He is now an old dog and has outlived many others of his breed, any of his health issues are related to ageing not his diabetes. It sounds easy but it has taken a lot of dedication and determination for our beloved boy.

Some tips:

Don’t worry if you forget an injection (believe me it will happen), hyperglycaemia is less serious in the short term than hypoglycaemia (too much insulin) which can be a veterinary emergency.

Keep the needle at a low angle to ensure you inject under the skin rather than in the muscle which can be painful.

Move the injection site around or you will get a thickening of the skin at the injection site.

Keep the diet and exercise regular and unchanged, you may need to weigh the food until you know that it is the same each time. Regular routine is key to success.

Remember, food increases blood sugar, insulin and exercise reduce it.

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