Many dog breeds are prone/predisposed to certain health conditions. Diabetes is one that many breeds can acquire (including miniature schnauzers) so I thought I’d write a bit about this condition for anyone working with a currently diabetic dog or trying to prevent diabetes in their dog.
Here’s what we know:
Diabetes Mellitus is a group of conditions in which there is a deficiency of the hormone insulin or an insensitivity to it. Insulin is produced in the islet cells of the pancreas and is normally responsible for controlling blood concentrations of the body’s main fuel, glucose. In normal animals, insulin does this by preventing glucose production by the liver and ensuring that excess glucose derived from food which is not needed for energy is put into body stores.
In a diabetic animal there is insufficient insulin to switch off glucose production by the liver or to efficiently store excess glucose derived from energy giving foods. This means that the blood concentration of glucose rises and eventually exceeds a level beyond which the kidneys let glucose leak into the urine. This loss of glucose in urine takes water with it by a process called osmosis and causes larger volumes of urine to be produced than normal. The excessive loss of water in urine is compensated for by thirstiness and increased water consumption. The principal clinical signs of an animal with diabetes mellitus are therefore polyuria (excessive urination) and polydipsia (excessive water consumption). In addition, diabetic animals tend to lose weight because they breakdown stores of fat and protein (muscle) to make glucose and ketones (an alternative fuel) in the liver. Other clinical signs diabetics may include: cataracts, polyphagia (increased appetite), exercise intolerance and recurrent infections.
Diabetes mellitus in dogs usually occurs between 5 and 12 years of age. It is quite uncommon to see it in dogs/pets under 3 years old. Considerably more female pets develop the disease than males and certain breeds such as schnauzers seem predisposed to the condition.
In general, diabetes creates a process where your dog can’t process carbohydrates properly or maintain stable blood sugar levels. Your dog’s food contains carbohydrates and sugars. When he eats food, his pancreas is supposed to produce the hormone insulin which turns the carbohydrates and sugar into energy. But if his/her pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, the sugar builds up in his blood to dangerously high levels.
In some forms of diabetes, your dog’s immune system (through autoimmune disease) is attacking itself, destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas so that not enough insulin can be produced. In other forms of diabetes, insulin is produced but your dog’s body tissues don’t process it properly. Another type of diabetes is usually secondary to other illnesses such as “Cushing’s disease” or to the chronic use of drugs such as steroids.
Diabetes typically occurs in overweight dogs of 6-9 years of age; however, more and more often it is occurring in younger dogs as well (and purebred dogs are often the victims of defective immune systems because of their breeding…).
From all that I have read, I also notice that diabetes in dogs is also exacerbated by feeding artificial, grain-heavy diets.
The classic signs of diabetes are:
- polyuria (PU) – excessive urination
- polydipsia (PD) – excessive thirst
- Polyphagia – excessive appetite or eating
- weight loss
As the disease progresses, the signs include anorexia (loss of appetite), depression, and vomiting.
Dogs are often diagnosed with diabetes because the owner notices the dog has suddenly gone blind. This is due to the rapid cataract development that often occurs in diabetic dogs.
How is Diabetes Diagnosed and Treated?
Diagnosis is based on physical signs, clinical exam and lab tests. Blood and urine tests will reveal persistently high levels of glucose. As with diabetes in humans, there is no cure and the goal is to stabilize your dog’s blood sugar levels. With mild diabetes, a careful diet and regular exercise to reduce any obesity may be enough to control it
I would not want to feed Caesar an artificial prescription diet. I would feed (as I currently do), homemade foods – best for diabetes are small, high-carbohydrate, medium-fibre meals – and I would increase the meals to 4 times a day rather than 3 — they would just have to be smaller meals.
More serious cases of diabetes also require insulin injections. The dosage can be tricky to regulate at first, but the needle is very small so the injection is nearly painless. You would need to learn how to draw a tiny sample of your dog’s blood on a regular basis and measure his glucose levels on a glucometer. With this daily treatment, the prognosis is good, and most diabetic dogs can live a normal lifespan.
For prevention of this disease, daily exercise, good nutrition and weight loss if your dog is overweight is best.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin
The recipes I make for Caesar are good for keeping him healthy (in my opinion) but if I noticed his blood sugar rising, I might avoid the carrots and/or apple.
Here is a simple recipe that I came across in many sites that has been used successfully for many different breeds of diabetic dogs:
Quick Rice Dinner
1/4 cup brown rice
1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
1/2 cup cooked beef or chicken
Cook rice and add rest of the ingredients. Mix together and serve (I serve Caesar 1/2 cup of food 3 times a day). (For this recipe I would add 1/2 cup of green beans or broccoli to this for some veggie content – and probably double or triple the amounts so I can freeze extra)!
Please note: The information on this site is general, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from your veterinarian. Questions concerning your pet’s health should be directed to your pet’s health care provider.