Diabetes is recognized as a rapidly increasing human problem, but it’s also becoming more common in pets. Estimates of how many dogs are affected vary, but experts agree, canine diabetes is on the rise. The condition isn’t quite the same in dogs as in people, and effective prevention isn’t as well understood. There seems to be a stronger hereditary component in dogs, and certain disorders, environmental contributors, and other factors that are largely out of your control appear to play a significant role in development of the disease.
While prevention is never a guarantee, you can lower your dog’s risk of developing diabetes. If your dog becomes diabetic, a mostly normal life is still possible. With proper management, most affected dogs maintain a good quality of life. But management requires a good deal of patience, time, effort, and money. Just some of the daily care includes one or two insulin injections, monitoring blood glucose levels, watching for signs of complications, and a careful diet given on a strict regimen. Such commitments make prevention highly appealing.
Risk Factors for Canine Diabetes
Understanding the risk factors for canine diabetes is key to prevention. Some are out of your control, some can affect decisions about what type of dog to get, and others are manageable. There’s not much you can do about genetic dispositions, other than researching a dog’s bloodline prior to adoption or purchase. Aging is a primary risk factor, too; most dogs develop diabetes in middle or later years.
Females are more prone to the condition than males, as are mixed breeds dogs. Australian terriers, dachshunds, Keeshonds, poodles, Samoyeds, and schnauzers are some breeds at higher risk. The presence of an autoimmune disease or chronic pancreatitis makes diabetes more likely. Long-term use of certain drugs, including glucocorticoids and some hormones, causes diabetes in a low percentage of treated animals. The most controllable risk factor is obesity. Overweight or obese dogs seem to be at greater risk for diabetes.
Managing Your Dog’s Weight to Prevent Diabetes
Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is the best way to minimize her risk of canine diabetes. Talk to your veterinarian about what a “healthy weight” means for your pet; don’t make assumptions. Ask for advice on daily caloric intake and an appropriate exercise routine.
See to it that your dog exercises on at least most days of the week. Feed her a balanced diet that provides all the nutrients she needs without an excess of calories. Opt for a high-grade commercial pet food. If you make your own dog food, be sure you understand your dog’s nutritional needs and what foods are suitable. Watch how many extra calories you supply with treats; it doesn’t take many to lead to weight gain. Similarly, watch how much people food you offer and avoid giving fatty foods that are high in calories and that contribute to inflammation of the pancreas, a risk factor for diabetes.