Ask the Vet: Doggie Diabetes Alternatives
Q: Are there any alternatives for dogs (Labs) with diabetes, other than shots? She is 8 years old.
A: Unfortunately, no. I can't elaborate much on this one but I will try. Diabetes mellitus is a huge problem in human medicine. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 285 million people, corresponding to 6.4% of the world's adult population, lived with diabetes in 2010. There are research labs all over the world seeking ways to improve diabetes in patients. This research spills over into veterinary medicine and can be helpful to our animal patients, but it can also mislead people to think they can control diabetes with oral medication. A quick search of the Internet brings up 5-10 oral human glycemic control medications. Some of these have been used with some success in cats (like glipizide), but ultimately diabetic dogs and cats must have insulin. The only way to deliver insulin is through injections.
Human diabetic patients are classified as Type I (completely unable to produce any insulin) and Type II (unable to produce enough insulin). Type I patients do not respond to oral treatments to reduce blood sugar; they require insulin injections whereas Type II patients may be able to respond to oral medications provided their pancreas has some remaining insulin-producing ability. Diabetic dogs are completely insulin dependent (Type I) and have no response to treatments other than insulin injections. Cats, on the other hand, are generally in the Type II category, meaning some diabetic cats (25%) can actually make do with dietary intervention or some oral medications. And most of these cats will eventually need insulin injections later in life. That being said, all diabetics will do better when they eat a diet that is high in protein, low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, and made of complex (not simple) carbohydrates. Every top pet food company markets a veterinary prescription diabetic diet. For dogs Hill’s makes w/d or r/d, Royal Canin makes Diabetic HF, Purina makes DCO Fiber Control, and so forth. Evo foods are very high in protein and are over the counter, but they tend to be high calorie, so I avoid using Evo in overweight pets. When eating an approved diabetic diet, dogs will need less insulin and have better sugar control through the day (less spikes and dips).
The good news is that it is very easy to give a dog an injection of insulin. The needle is smaller than most of the mosquitoes around Charleston!
Do you have a question for Dr. Cain? Email your health and wellness issues to email@example.com
Dr. Danielle Cain is originally from Long Island, NY where she grew up riding horses, rehabilitating wild animals with her family, and fostering stray dogs and cats. She completed a bachelor's degree in biology at the University of Delaware with a focus in genetics and the aim of researching reproduction in endangered animals. While working as a veterinary technician she fell in love with the profession and decided to pursue a career in veterinary medicine at North Carolina State University. Dr. Cain has worked extensively with turtles, has experience with reptiles and other exotics, and has a passion for wildlife rehabilitation. After veterinary school, she completed a rotating medicine and surgery internship in San Diego, and worked in several California practices. She then relocated to Charleston in 2005, where she lives with her two rescued cats, Una and Bagheera.