Canine Diabetic Treatments Beyond Insulin

Diabetic canines are often prescribed insulin therapy, but owners must take other measures to keep canine diabetes in check. Together, vet and owner can effectively control the progression of the disease so that a diabetic dog lives a long, happy and productive life. A strict diet and exercise regime may even mean your diabetic dog will need less insulin or avoid insulin therapy altogether. Treated early, canine diabetes can indeed be managed, even reversed. Left untreated, canine diabetes can cause blindness, kidney disease, liver disease and death.

Onset of Canine Diabetes

One in 500 dogs becomes diabetic. Canine diabetes occurs when a dog's pancreas stops producing enough of the hormone insulin. Insulin delivers blood glucose, or blood sugar, to the cells. An insulin deficiency causes glucose to build up in the bloodstream to a level that may strain a dog's kidneys and liver. If glucose leaks into the urine, it will take large amounts of the body's stored water with it when excreted.

Symptoms of Dog Diabetes

Your diabetic dog may become excessively thirsty and urinate excessively, the two most prominent clinical symptoms of canine diabetes. Other symptoms include:

  • Appetite increase
  • Bloating
  • Infections that return
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss

Insulin Therapy

Insulin therapy involves daily home injections of insulin. Your vet will instruct you how to inject your dog insulin, test your dog's urine with strips, and record glucose levels in a log. Always praise your dog after injection to foster positive rather than negative associations. Follow the prescribed insulin regimen to the letter, for an overdose can cause significant harm to your dog.


Exercise increases blood flow in a diabetic dog, and thereby lowers glucose concentrations in the bloodstream. Stay faithful to a regular exercise routine. Find what exercises you and your dog enjoy doing most together, like long walks, swimming and affectionate play. Doing so will also help compensate for the negative effects of the disease on your dog.

Diet and Nutrition

No one diet fits all diabetic dogs. Your vet will take into account the stage of your dog's diabetes, age and physical condition in determining a particular diet. As a general rule, taking these dietetic measures may help curb canine diabetes:

  • Do not offer your dog snacks between meals.
  • Limit fatty treats.
  • Offer plenty of high-fiber foods.
  • Increase complex carbohydrate intake.
  • Replace high-fat foods with low-fat foods.

Vitamin supplements given in the early stages of canine diabetes may slow the disease and delay the need for insulin shots. For example, Vitamin E and C control blood sugar levels. Vitamin E bolsters immunity; Vitamin C prevents cataracts and protects kidneys. Offer your dog vitamin-packed foods as well. Avoid moist, unrefrigerated, processed dog foods, for they are high in carbohydrates and sugar and low in the vitamins canine diabetics need.

Diabetic Emergencies

Symptoms of diabetic emergency include:

  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Shivering
  • Staggering
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Bad breath that smells like acetone.

Seek medical attention if your dog experiences any one of these symptoms.