The answer is probably nothing at all, although if your dog is overweight, this may have contributed to the onset of diabetes.
Food allergies can activate the immune system and trigger autoimmune reactions that can be part of type 1 diabetes - especially foods containing wheat and other more allergenic items. Be aware that many "high quality" dog foods still contain barley, which is closely related to wheat botanically - and still a risk for causing immune reactions that might contribute to type 1 diabetes (wheat gluten has been implicated in some human studies).
Canine diabetes is most commonly seen in female dogs around or after middle age, but it can occur in young dogs and male dogs. Any dog can get diabetes, but breeds that are more susceptible include: golden retrievers, german shepherds, poodles, schnauzers, and certain terriers (e.g., cairn or fox terriers).
Unlike humans, dogs very rarely have type 2 diabetes. They almost always develop type 1 which is insulin-dependent and not reversible. This type of diabetes develops quickly (over a few weeks at most). It is caused by damage to the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
When a dog has diabetes, its body is no longer able to regulate blood sugar levels. The dog will be very thirsty, consuming noticeably more water than usual. It will also need to urinate more often. If a previously well trained dog is suddenly unable to control its bladder in the house, this might be a sign of diabetes.
The dog may lose weight, or it may eat more without gaining weight. As the disease progresses, cataracts (cloudy looking eyes) may develop. If you notice any of these canine diabetes symptoms, it is time for a trip to the veterinarian's office. Some nutritional additions from your holistic vet may be able to slow down development of cataracts.
If your dog has type 1 diabetes, you cannot control your dog's diabetes with diet alone. Nor can tablets help, as they do with type 2 diabetes. The damaged cells in the pancreas cannot fully recover.
Still there may be natural remedies that can help reduce the amount of insulin needed and protect cells from damage from high blood sugars. Just as you should talk to your own doctor about natural remedies for human diabetes, you should consult your dog's veterinarian, preferably a holistic veterinarian, for recommendations about how to integrate conventional care and alternative therapies for canine diabetes. Find a holistic vet through the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association at http://www.ahvma.org/.
The only time when canine diabetes can actually be cured or reversed is in rare cases when temporary diabetes has been caused by medications or other medical conditions such as Cushing's disease. Females may also develop transient canine diabetes while in heat or pregnant. In these cases the diabetes may be cured by treating the underlying condition or spaying a dog whose diabetes appears to be hormone-related.
However, the good news is that diabetes in dogs can be managed successfully. Thirty years ago, 50% of diabetic dogs would die within 2 months of diagnosis. But now, treatment has improved so much that most are now able to be treated at home and will live as long as a non-diabetic dog.
Treatment means giving insulin to the dog after each meal. This can be done by injections or through an insulin pump. Most dogs will be put on a schedule of two meals a day, 12 hours apart, with the amount of food carefully measured and an insulin dose adjusted to the amount of food.
Blood glucose levels must be monitored regularly. The dog must be watched for any signs of hypo and hyperglycemia.
Hypoglycemia occurs where the insulin dose is too high, or the dog has had more exercise than usual or is not eating enough. It may be lethargic, weak, trembling, have dizzy spells or seem confused or depressed. There may be seizures. A dog with hypoglycemia should be fed or, if the dog is unconscious or refusing food, you can rub something sugary like honey or syrup on the gums or under the tongue. Try feeding again when the dog is beginning to recover (normally within a couple of minutes) and contact your veterinarian.
Hyperglycemia is the opposite of hypoglycemia. It is not so dangerous in the short term as an insulin-caused low blood sugar (which can cause seizures and be life-threatening) but it is important to see the veterinarian so that blood sugar levels can be checked and the insulin dose or feeding regimen re-evaluated. The symptoms of hyperglycemia are like the first onset of diabetes in dogs.
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