When you hear the word diabetes, you may also think of the word insulin, as it’s the treatment of choice for people and pets diagnosed with this illness affecting the body’s glucose levels. If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, he can live a happy life. You can use home remedies to help his condition, but canine diabetes requires veterinary guidance and consistent treatment. Whatever you do, involve your vet.
Diabetes in Dogs
To understand how home remedies can help canine diabetes, it’s important to know how the disease works and affects your pup’s body. Your dog’s pancreas aids in his digestion by producing digestive enzymes and the hormone insulin. Insulin helps maintain the proper level of glucose in the bloodstream. If your dog has diabetes mellitus, his pancreas isn’t properly regulating his blood sugar. When your dog’s blood sugar isn’t properly balanced, he’ll likely eat, drink and urinate excessively, as well as lose weight. Most dogs develop Type I diabetes, also referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes because the pancreas does not produce any insulin. Type II diabetes is also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes because the pancreas is secreting insulin -- however, not in sufficient quantities to meet the dog’s needs.
If your dog has Type I diabetes, there’s no avoiding the fact he’ll require insulin. If he has the more uncommon Type II diabetes, he’ll likely need insulin or an oral medication to stimulate insulin production. However, there are supplements that may help control his blood sugar. Dr. Shawn Messonnier of PetCareNaturally.com says that the herb gymnema may help increase insulin production and improve its effectiveness. He also says the minerals chromium and vanadium may be useful in helping to balance glucose metabolism and levels.
It’s tempting to want to change your dog’s diet to help manage his blood sugar. WebMD notes that though there’s no proven consensus on the best diet for canine diabetes, most veterinarians advocate a high-fiber, low-fat diet. Fiber not only keeps your pup satisfied, it also slows down the speed at which glucose enters his bloodstream. A lower fat content helps keep your dog’s weight at a manageable level. Carbohydrates are important, too, as they can trigger significant changes in blood sugar levels. Most legumes, fruits and vegetables, as well as some whole grains, are low-glycemic nutrients, releasing into the bloodstream at a steady rate. Whether you’re cooking for your dog or contemplating a switch in his dog food, you must involve your vet in his dinner decisions. Don't forget to talk to the vet about which treats he can have and when he can have them.
Consistency Is Key
Consistency is the primary home remedy for a dog with diabetes. He should receive regular exercise to help him keep his weight and blood sugar in healthy ranges. It's possible to get too much exercise, causing exercise-induced hypoglycemia. The vet can help determine the appropriate weight for your dog, which will guide his diet and exercise plan. It’s important that your dog eats regular meals -- if he’s turning his nose up at his supper, try enticing him with some low-sodium chicken broth or scrambled eggs stirred into his food. Sometimes a spoonful of canned food or shredded chicken will do the trick. Once you and the vet have determined the right diet, try to keep to the same diet on the same schedule, which is important to maintaining a steady blood sugar level.
Canine diabetes can be life-threatening, particularly if your dog gets too much insulin, which can result in hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. A dog with mildly low blood sugar will be lethargic. With dangerously low blood sugar levels, he may experience seizures or lose consciousness. Talk to your vet about the signs of hypoglycemia, and keep corn syrup on hand as an emergency helper should your dog become hypoglycemic. As well, make sure the entire family is on board with his treatment regimen so he gets the consistent care he requires.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Diabetes Mellitus -- Principles of Treatment in Dogs
- The Whole Dog Journal: Canine Diabetes: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Diet
- PetCareNaturally.com: Questions for Dr. Shawn -- Diabetes, Supplements
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs
- WebMD: Diabetic Dog: Tips to Manage His Diet
- Dogs Naturally Magazine: Canine Diabetes: Prevention and Treatment
- The Bark: Preventing and Treating Canine Diabetes
- A8-dct/iStock/Getty Images