Original article by Elizabeth Gigis, DVM, West Chester Veterinary Center , January, 2013
Most dogs have type I, or insulin-dependent diabetes. The beta cells of the pancreas produce insulin. With type I diabetes, the dog’s pancreas is not producing enough insulin to take sugar into the cells. Insulin acts like a little ferry, taking sugar from the blood stream into the inside of cells. If your pet does not have enough insulin, then the sugar stays in the blood stream and cannot be used inside the cell, where it is needed. This causes the sugar in the blood stream to be very high. Diabetes can usually be diagnosed easily by drawing a blood sugar level. Common symptoms of diabetes are lethargy, increased drinking and urinating, and decreased appetite. Other symptoms can include chronic infections, vomiting or diarrhea.
Because dogs are mainly type I, or insulin-dependent, they require life-long insulin administration, generally twice per day. NPH is an insulin type commonly prescribed in dogs. This insulin is given every 12 hours, but many other insulin types are available. The insulin dose is started low, and then rechecked at one to two week intervals until the pet’s correct dose is achieved. This purpose of this is that while your pet can tolerate a slightly higher dose for a short period of time, having a low blood sugar (called hypoglycemia) can be very serious. Your veterinarian may elect to do blood glucose curves, where blood sugar is rechecked every few hours, to determine the blood sugar throughout the day before adjusting an insulin dose. A blood glucose curve is important because it will tell you the blood sugar high, low and length of time the insulin is active for in your pet’s body.
When giving insulin, is it always important to use the correct type of syringe. U100 and U40 insulin should be used with their corresponding correct syringe. Because some pets’ insulin requirements may change over time, they can occasionally develop low blood sugar levels. Regular rechecks with your veterinarian will help prevent this, but almost all dogs insulin requirements will change over time. Symptoms of low blood sugar are: weakness, disorientation, seizures, or coma and prolonged low blood sugar can be fatal. If you notice these symptoms, rub Karo syrup (which is high in sugar) on the gums and seek veterinary help immediately.
Diabetic pets should be fed at 12 hour intervals. They should be feed a diet high in fiber, with complex carbohydrates, a fixed amount of protein and restricted fat content. This will promote gradual food absorption and decrease fluctuations in blood sugar after eating. If your pet does not eat or vomits after eating, you should administer no more than a half dose of insulin and seek veterinary advice.
The prognosis for diabetes is good, but requires life-long treatment and management. This is a significant financial and time investment for pet owners. Diabetes can also be associated with other underlying diseases, such as Cushing’s disease. Comprehensive blood work is usually performed at the time of diabetes diagnosis to rule out underlying conditions. Because of the nature of diabetes, frequent infections are common and routinely need to be addressed. Unfortunately, diabetes also affects the lens of the eye. Many dogs become blind after being diagnosed with diabetes. This is an additional challenge for pet owners and their animals. If your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to have an in-depth conversation with your veterinarian regarding the costs, side-effects, and long-term prognosis for your pet.
Elizabeth Gigis, DVM
West Chester Veterinary Center
7330 Liberty Way, West Chester, OH 45069
Education is the first step in pet poison prevention.
Pet owners should take the time to educate themselves on the various, sometimes unexpected, pet poisons in their environments. The Pet Poison Helpline provides an extensive list of poisonous items for pet owners to be aware of, but here are a few of the most common items seen by veterinarians:
Many people believe certain dog breed, such as huskies and malamutes, are capable of living outside all of the time because of their thick coats. However, no dog breed should be consistently left unprotected outside. According to the City of Cincinnati, when the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a pet owner should not leave their dog outside for longer than sixty minutes without adequate shelter. For outside dogs, owners should provide a warm, dry, draft free shelter with fresh, unfrozen water. Heated water bowls are a great option to ensure consistent access to unfrozen water. Owners should also feed their outdoor dogs more during the winter because their bodies use more energy trying to keep warm. In 2016, the City of Cincinnati passed an ordinance with further restrictions and shelter guidelines for dog tethering and weather conditions, which can be found by clicking here
A common winter hazard that vets encounter consistently with cats is engine belt injuries. Cats will climb into cars to keep warm, and without knowing they’re there, people will start their cars and harm the cats. Before starting your car in the winter, it’s advised to give the car hood a few raps to make sure there are no cats cozied up inside.
Pets start an estimated 1,000 fires per year. While this isn’t a huge number, it’s easily preventable. Pet owners should identify the risks in their home and make sure they’re contained from pets. Risks to consider include, open flames such as candles, space heaters, stovetops, fireplaces, and frayed wires chewed by puppies.
Even if all fire hazards are contained from pets, there’s still always a chance of a house fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) , there’s a home fire reported every 86 seconds in the United States. So while the hope is that you and your pets never have to face a fire, it’s important to have a plan.
In case of a fire, pet owners should hang window clings that let firefighters know there’s a pet in the home. The ASPCA offers a free Pet Fire Safety Pack that includes a window decal. When leaving home, pet owners should know where their pets are and keep them close to exits if possible. Pet owners should also consider investing in monitored smoke detectors that alert homeowners of a fire when they’re not home and automatically dispatch firefighters.
Getting your dog microchipped is an easy and relatively inexpensive procedure that drastically increases the odds that your pet will find its way home if it’s ever lost. A microchip is a tiny chip that’s about the size of a grain of rice and contains a unique identification number. It’s injected into a pet’s skin between the shoulder blades on their back. When scanned with an electric scanner, the chip will show the unique identification number and manufacturer of the microchip. This unique identification number will be linked to the pet owner’s contact information in the microchip manufacturer’s database.
If a stranger ever finds your dog, a shelter or veterinarian can scan your pet for a microchip. Once they have the identification number and manufacturer from the chip reading, they will call the manufacturer in search of the pet owner’s contact information. Therefore, if a dog owner moves or changes their contact information, it’s extremely important for them to update the contact information associated with their pet’s microchip identification number.