My pet has diabetes.......Now what?

by Dr Candice Cooper
Dealing with Diabetes

Dealing with Diabetes - Q&A with Dr Candice Cooper

Our precious "Bella" was recently diagnosed with diabetes and it has been extremely stressful and overwhelming for our family. We weren’t sure we’d be able to cope but after two weeks now, we are managing just fine.

"Bella" doesn’t like getting the insulin injections and knows when it is time to administer them which leaves me feeling terrible for poking her her even though I know it is essential to manage her condition.

Will having diabetes shorten her 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 that 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 will 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. It is important to measure her sugar levels at the same time every day.

I have got her on a diabetic diet - can I add anything to it, like chicken? It is very bland and she is extremely hungry.

A low carbohydrate treat like plain boiled skinned & 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 and adding extra calories to her diet is not going to help with this.

Remember that diabetic pets are hungry because their body is struggling to use the calories it has, not because she is not eating enough. This should improve once you have figured out her ideal insulin dose and her blood sugar levels have stabilized.

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 bring her in so we can check why she is not eating.

How often does she need a veterinary check up and does this condition stabilise at any stage?

I usually see my patients weekly until their blood sugar has stabilized. Keeping exercise and diet constant really helps achieve this much quicker. Once we have worked out the ideal management plan for a pet, the condition does usually remain nice and stable and I see my patients every 6 months for a check-up unless there are any concerns before then.

May she have the “odd” 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 give them consistently i.e. same treat, same amount, same time to keep her sugar levels constant.

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