Canine diabetes – it’s an expensive, devastating, and challenging disease for dog owners to address, no matter when it occurs. Treating a dog with diabetes often requires insulin injections multiple times a day. It’s a tough nut to crack, with some breeds more predisposed to the disease than others. And with an incidence rate of somewhere between one in 100 to one in 500 dogs experience diabetes throughout their lifetime, it’s a problem that can seem more like an eventuality than a possibility.
If your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, you should know that there are excellent medications and protocols to help you manage it as best you can. That said, prevention is still a far more effective strategy than treating the disease once it crops up. Research shows that obesity, lack of movement, poor diet and even failing to address stress and anxiety may increase your dog’s risk or even worsen diabetes after diagnosis. Conversely, working to address these areas of your pup’s life can significantly reduce his risk for diabetes over time.
Fortunately, news coming out of canine metabolic research isn’t all bad: we now know that warding off the disease before it occurs may be as easy as making a few lifestyle changes. Whether you love an old dog or just a pup, these easy tasks can help to keep her pancreas healthy and functioning long into old age.
One of the most recommended treatments for humans with diabetes is light to moderate exercise. This concept also applies to your dog, too. Ensuring that your dog gets up and moving on a daily basis will not only encourage him to stay in shape, but will provide an outlet for an anxiety or nervous energy, too. There’s also good evidence to show that the increased blood flow and circulation experienced when your dog is running, jumping, and playing may in fact improve insulin absorption.
While sports like fly ball and agility training can be right for some canines, there’s no need to make things complicated – even just getting out for a 30-minute walk once or twice a day is enough. If your pet is used to being a couch potato, start your new exercise plan slowly – a sudden increase in exercise may actually increase insulin absorption too much, causing hypoglycemia.
Skip the Sugary Treats
It’s a common misconception that eating too much sugar can cause diabetes all on its own. Fortunately, that’s simply not the case. At its core, diabetes is almost always caused by either genetics or damage to the pancreas, not by simply eating too much sugar. But that doesn’t mean that sugary treats are a good choice or even really safe and healthy for your dog to eat on the regular; they can still increase the risk for diabetes in other more subtle ways.
The biggest problem with sugar is that your dog’s body tends to convert it into fat, especially if he’s not burning off the energy through play. Obesity, unfortunately, is directly linked to diabetes, creating an indirect link between too much sugar and your dog eventually being diagnosed with the disease. Furthermore, too much sugar can increase blood pressure, cause dehydration, or even trigger latent diabetes in dogs who are predisposed to it in the first place.
Skip the highly-processed dog treats, and replace them with more natural food options instead. Boiled, dehydrated, or baked sweet potatoes make an excellent, slightly sweet treat that’s easier for your dog to digest than items with cane sugar. Alternatively, skip the sweetness altogether and use dehydrated or cooked beef liver for a savory treat instead.
Regular checkups are your most formidable weapon against diabetes, especially if you have your vet run blood work while you’re there. Markers in the blood can identify when dogs slip into a pre-diabetic state, and may give you the time you need to make lifestyle changes that prevent it from occurring in the first place.
If your vet does find markers, adding antioxidants may help. Studies show a reliable connection between antioxidants and the prevention or reversal of diabetes-related health problems, like cataracts and high blood pressure.
There’s no time like the present to rule out diabetes. Have your pup to the vet regularly so you’re informed and educated about his health before problems occur.
Contrary to popular belief, grain itself isn’t evil. Some dogs seem to do quite well on it, never experiencing problems provided that the rest of their diet is fairly well-rounded. Too much grain, however, may be linked to diabetes both directly and via a link to obesity, so you should avoid it when you can.
The problem is that most grains are carbs, and your dog’s body breaks these down into blood glucose during the digestive process. Higher blood glucose is – you guessed it – higher blood sugar, and that can lead to obesity or even full-blown diabetes in predisposed breeds. Most grains rank fairly high on the glycemic index, and should be limited in diabetic dogs for that reason.
Think about what your dog might eat naturally in the wild – mostly meat, with the occasional feast of berries and other plant matter, and little to no actual wheat. Avoiding a grain-heavy diet makes sense. Sure, dogs are omnivores, but much of their diet in the wild is heavily carnivorous. Pick a high-quality grain-free food that’s approved by your vet, and supplement with simple cooked meats like chicken breast or beef when you can.
Go Low-Fat (Properly)
The link between fat and diabetes is two-fold; first, too much fat obviously produces obesity. But eating too much fat can also put a tremendous amount of stress on the pancreas, causing pancreatitis attacks or even permanent damage to the organ itself.
A once-off attack (likely when Fido happens to steal a snack from the kitchen table) probably won’t cause long-term harm. Repeated bouts of pancreatitis, however, can scar the organ and restrict its functioning. When that happens, your dog’s ability to manage blood glucose with insulin will be impaired. When insulin management is impaired, diabetes occurs.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed any fat at all; some healthy fat is a must for proper energy maintenance, a clean, shiny coat, and even overall satisfaction after a meal. Skip high-fat processed snacks, treats, and meats and give your dog healthier alternatives. Baked salmon contains a plethora of omega-3 fatty acids that improve health, as does flaxseed oil. Avoid commercial foods that contain tallow or lard, as these provide calories but also promote obesity.
Keeping your pup healthy all throughout his life requires looking at his health holistically. Address all parts of the dog and you’ll stand the best chance of preventing serious health problems, like diabetes or even heart disease. And a few extra play sessions? They never hurt anyone, either – dogs and humans alike. So get out there, have fun, and do everything you can to enjoy that furry canine friend!Tags: canine diabetes