Patients who are in a diabetic ketoacidotic crisis require aggressive therapy and hospitalization for a few days. Once a patient is more stable, the veterinarian will then start them on injectable insulin. Prescription diets are available that are low in carbohydrates, but ultimately, the type of diet will not impact a dog so much as his overall body condition score. It is important to feed canine diabetic patients twice a day, and consistency is key. This means that if your dog has diabetes, he should be fed the same amount at the same timeevery time.
Your dog should be given his insulin injection about fifteen minutes after he eats. If he only eats half of his food, then he should receive half of the normal amount of insulin. If he isn’t eating at all, he should not receive insulin. If inappetence persists for more than 24 hours, call your vet right away.
Glucose monitoring is an important part of diabetes management. Your vet might give you a glucometer so that you can spot-check your dog’s glucose. Keep in mind that high numbers are concerning but should only be interpreted in a glucose curve which involves taking multiple readings one to two hours apart. Numbers can fluctuate, so the occasional high number should not cause worry. Very low numbers (less than 100) are more concerning becausehypoglycemia can cause seizures, and you should always contact your vet if the number is low.
If your dog does not like his glucometer, or if you are having trouble checking his sugar at home, more veterinarians are becoming familiar with continuous monitoring devices like the FreeStyle Libre. This is a small disc-like device that humans use to continuously monitor their sugar levels. It stays on their skin for up to 14 days and can be scanned with a reader or a convenient application on their cellular phone. Several studies have been published that proves their efficacy in dogs and cats, and there is mention of these devices in the most recent diabetes management guidelines from the ACVIM.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetes in dogs. But once your dog’s diabetes is well-controlled, he can go back to having an excellent quality of life, and many dogs with diabetes live for a few years after their diagnosis. In the initial stages, treatment for diabetes can be expensive as your vet works to get your dog’s sugar levels under control. But once control is achieved, the cost of insulin, syringes, and diet becomes much more manageable.
If your dog has recently been diagnosed, the amount of information provided to you can seem daunting! Always ask your veterinarian for clarification on things you don’t understand, and ask for any resources that they can recommend to help you manage your dog’s diabetes. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has a great website with loads of information and how-to videos for insulin administration and glucometer checks.