Missed the previous article? Check it out here Back to Basics for Diabetic Pets | Part 3
Back to Basics Part 4: Popular Questions
Over the last few weeks we’ve discussed the basics of pet diabetes from signs of abnormal blood glucose levels to insulin details and blood glucose monitoring. Today we will chat about some of the big picture items that you may not have considered for your diabetic pet.
What If My Diabetic Pet Gets Sick with Another Issue?
Be a super diligent pet owner! Not only are diabetics immunosuppressed relative to non-diabetic pets, infections can cause insulin resistance. Any disease that affects a pet’s appetite can throw the diabetes for a loop, and you might need to back down on the dosage of insulin briefly. Vomiting in particular can make it difficult to decide how much insulin should be given. If a pet is vomiting and the blood glucose is high, your vet may have you administer a smaller dose than usual. If a pet is vomiting and the blood glucose is low your vet will likely have you skip a dose. This is a discussion you should have with your veterinarian! I can’t guide you on the particulars as I’ve not examined your pet! This is a discussion to have with the veterinarian supervising your pet’s medical care. Whenever you change the type or amount of food or even add a new medication you should run a blood glucose curve about a week later.
What If I’m Running Late?
Everyone gets delayed now and then. Say you miss a connecting flight and you don’t get home until 4 hours after you expected. Your pet sitter gave the morning injection but left before the evening injection because you were due home. Or maybe your car broke down. There are lots of unforeseen circumstances. Life is not perfect. Sometimes we miss a dose or get home hours after the dose was due. Do you give the injection? Or do you skip it and wait until the morning dose? There is no right answer, but if you are hours late you will likely just skip until the next dose. If you do give a dose late be sure to decrease it so that it is less likely to significantly overlap with the next regularly scheduled dose and cause a low blood glucose. If you skip a dose, anticipate that your pet may drink and urinate more for a day or 2 because the blood glucose was higher than usual due to the missed dose of insulin.
What If You Give an Injection but Aren’t Sure If You Got It All into the Pet?
This happens to everyone now and then! Fluffy could wiggle and you then feel a bit of moisture on the fur. You wonder if Fluffy got any of it. Do you give another injection? No! Please do not. Wait until the next injection and anticipate that the pet’s blood glucose may run a little high until that next dose.
What Happens If a Pet Accidentally Gets a Double Dose?
I’ve seen it several times when a pet gets the usual dose by one family member only to find out that the husband or wife had already given the dose. Double dosing could cause a very low blood glucose and an emergency situation. What I want you to do: Feed extra, don’t leave the pet alone, check blood glucose levels every hour or so, and if the blood glucose starts to plummet or of the pet acts weak go to your vet or local ER! You will likely then skip the following dose of insulin.
What Else Should We Be Looking For?
Cataracts in dogs are a big risk for diabetic dogs. Urinary tract infections are also quite common. Diabetic pets are prone to hypertension. Of course any infection can lead to insulin resistance, so be on the lookout for dental infections which are one of the most common sites of infection in older dogs and cats. Prudent oral care is important for diabetic pets. If your pet is tubby, strive for proper body weight as obesity is another common cause of insulin resistance.
What If My Pet Is Finicky and Doesn’t Like the New Food My Vet Prescribed?
If your vet changed the pet food your diabetic pet is eating, there is likely good reason. Nonetheless, there are usually lots of good brands and flavor options. In general, we prefer to give diabetic dogs low-fat diets with complex carbohydrates and a normal amount of protein. The low-fat component is because many diabetic dogs became diabetic from pancreatitis. Pancreatitis patients should not eat fatty foods. Complex carbs take longer to metabolize and won’t cause an immediate blood glucose increase compared to simple carbohydrates.
For diabetic cats diet is a different story as they naturally don’t eat many carbs and all, being the little carnivores that they are. Veterinarians have found low carb diets to be superior for diabetic cats’ glucose regulation. Feed diabetic cats canned food only with a low carb content. In general, canned food is much lower in carbohydrates than dry food. You can find the carbohydrate content of most pet foods on the Internet. Ideally we want diabetic cats to eat canned food only, with a carb content less than 10%. The lower the better for blood glucose regulation. If your pet doesn’t like the food your vet recommends, search for one Fluffy does like and of course check with your vet!
Regardless of whether you have a diabetic dog or diabetic cat, you will likely achieve better blood glucose regulation if you feed the majority of calories when the insulin is given. This means feeding twice daily and splitting the food into 2 equal portions. Cats on low-carb foods can nibble a bit mid meal without as much of a blood glucose spike simply because low carb foods cause less of a blood glucose spike. (It’s an unfortunate fact that most cats prefer to nibble over meal feeding. In my humble opinion, cats can be far more pesky about demanding food than dogs. Yes, there are definitely some demanding dogs, but cats usually rule the roost. When kitty ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.) Folks who give lots of treats to their dogs between meals may wonder why the pet’s blood glucose numbers aren’t great. Cut out the mid-day snacks and the glucose curves will likely improve.
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NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.