Q: My nine-year-old Miniature Schnauzer has just been diagnosed with diabetes. How should I manage his condition?
A: Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic disease that causes poor quality of life, particularly in animals. Pets end up with very high blood sugar, yet their body cells starve from a lack of sugar. The condition results in a long-term breakdown of body tissues and the production of toxins. It may significantly reduce the life expectancy of an animal. Diabetes in dogs and cats is likely to be an insulin-dependent type, as compared to type 2 diabetes in humans. It used to be a rare disease in animals, but due to changes in lifestyle and diet, it is becoming more common in recent years.
Symptoms of diabetes vary, but most pets will primarily show an increase in drinking and urinating, an aggressive appetite and some progressive weight loss despite the good appetite. As the disease progresses, affected animals will lose their appetite, start vomiting and show lethargy. Dogs and cats that show these signs are usually in a critical condition and are at a high risk of dying.
Stabilising diabetic pets involves the use of specific insulin injections once or twice a day, combined with strict diets, exercise and feeding regimes. Well-managed pets can remain stable for several years. Diabetic dogs have been known to respond favourably when switched to a raw meat diet. This helps to reduce the total amount of carbohydrates consumed and the amount of insulin required on a daily basis to handle the blood sugar levels. A raw food diet also contains naturally occurring micronutrients like chromium and vanadium that will help your canine produce higher levels of insulin, thus requiring less external insulin injections. Speak to your vet before implementing any dietary changes.
It is vital that owners of diabetic pooches are familiar with performing regular urine tests and weekly blood sugar tests to monitor changes in insulin requirements. An overdose of insulin can cause a diabetic coma and could prove to be fatal. Your vet will also be able to teach you how to monitor your Miniature Schnauzer and look out for warning signs that could indicate a decline in his condition.