Home > Botany, Biology, and Your Dog > Canine Diabetes

Canine Diabetes

By: Regina Loureiro

Samoyeds are 12 times more likely than any other breed to develop canine diabetes and is a growing problem for the breed. The typical onset of diabetes is middle age, from 7 to 9 years old, often triggered by some health issue or oral steroids like prednisone. Symptoms include rapid and dramatic weight loss with no loss or increase of appetite, excessive water consumption, urination and bed wetting, weakness of the hind legs, and in acute cases, ketoacidosis (the presence of ketones in the urine). If you suspect your dog of diabetes, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Diabetes has no cure, but it is not a death sentence. Treatment involves patience in determining the correct insulin dosage balanced by food intake and exercise. Your veterinarian should have a preliminary treatment plan for you and your dog which includes a recommended starting insulin dosage based on your dog’s weight, training on how to administer the insulin injections, usually twice a day, and weekly checkups till your dog’s blood glucose level is in an acceptable range (between 100s and 200s), dietary considerations and detecting hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood glucose levels which can lead to seizures, coma and death).

Your dog must be fed before you can administer the insulin. Meal time and administration of insulin must be at the same times every day. Exercise must also be consistent, in both the time of day as well as the amount of exercise.

The best approach to giving your diabetic dog quality of life is to arm yourself with knowledge. Join a diabetic news group for support and general information. For more information, visit http://www.caninediabetes.org/maillists.html.

Know the types of medication your dog is on, and the side effects. There are several types of insulin. Vetsulin and caninsulin are made specifically for animals and can only be obtained from your vet. You also have a choice of human insulin NPH and PZI. For canines, insulin NPH is recommended for several reasons. Canines generally do much better with insulin NPH than those made specifically for animals. Insulin NPH is also available at pharmacies and in most states, does not require a prescription. If you run out of or break a vial, you can always go to a local pharmacy to buy another bottle. We recommend that you always keep two vials of insulin in case you break a vial or run out. Inspect the insulin every time you take it out of the refrigerator. If the insulin does not re-suspend, do not use it.

Insulin should be stored in the refrigerator, not the freezer. It is effective till the expiration date. Never shake the insulin and always take it out of the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before administering. Cold insulin hurts.

The type of insulin chosen for your dog and the dosage determine the type of syringes you need to purchase. Syringes have four properties: U-number, volume, needle length and needle diameter. The U-number tells you the concentration of insulin the syringe is calibrated for. Canine insulin requires U-40 syringes whereas human insulin require U-100 syringes. The volume tells you the maximum amount of insulin the syringe will deliver. For example, a 3/10 CC syringe can deliver 0-30 units of insulin. A 1/2 CC syringe can deliver 0-50 units of insulin. Needle length is commonly 1/2 inch, but shorter ones are also available. For a Samoyed with a thick double coat, 1/2 inch works will as shots are delivered subcutaneously (into the skin). Needle diameter is measured in gauge. The smaller the gauge, the thicker the needle. For less discomfort, select 30 or greater gauge syringes. Most states require prescriptions for syringes so make sure you never run out of syringes.

Be aware of factors that can affect your dog’s blood glucose level. Oral and topical steroids play havoc with blood glucose levels, often raising them. Sugar also affects blood glucose levels. Check your dog’s treats to make sure they are sugar free and are low in simple carbohydrates. High fat and high carb diets should be avoided. If you decide to home cook for your dog, you must add a canine multi-vitamin the diet.

An unregulated diabetic can experience all sorts of health issues, most notably cataracts and possible vision loss. Check your dog’s eyes every day. If you see any signs of cloudiness, contact your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Of course, the best scenario is getting your dog regulated as quickly as possible to prevent further damage to his health.

Diabetes is a horrible and complicated disease to manage. Many veterinarians recommend using urine strips, which you can purchase at your local pharmacy in the diabetic section, to test your dog’s urine for the presence of glucose. There are two types of urine test strips. One type tests for the presence of glucose only. The other type tests for both glucose and ketones. It is better to use the type that tests for both glucose and ketones. If your dog has any trace of ketones in the urine, he will need immediate medical attention. Urine testing is done before meal and injection, but only indicates the blood glucose level hours before. For accurate and immediate blood glucose level results, many owners have learned how to blood test with a glucometer at home. For more information on glucometers, please see http://petdiabetes.wikia.com/wiki/Glucometer.

The book “Dogs, Diet, and Disease – An Owner’s Guide to Diabetes Mellitus, Pancreatitis, Cushing’s Disease, & More” by Caroline D. Levin is a comprehensive and very informative book, especially for complicated cases.

If your Sammy is diabetic, you can help by contributing a DNA sample to a study by Doctor Rebecka Hess at the University of Pennsylvania. All expenses will be at no cost to the owner. For more information, please see http://www.mirage-samoyeds.com/diabetesstudy.htm. For Samoyed specific health issues, please see http://www.mirage-samoyeds.com/health.htm.