Feeding a diabetes sufferer
(Q) My vet has just informed me that my four-year-old Border Terrier, Mario, has diabetes. I'm very worried about him and want to make sure I do everything I can to help. What's the best diet for a diabetic dog? I've tried plain chicken and rice but he doesn't seem interested in it, and I'm reluctant to give him the same, boring food every day.
(A) Vet John Burns says: Diabetes is usually associated with weight loss, excessive appetite or thirst. It is vital to understand that diabetes is a life-threatening disease and must be managed accordingly.
Getting Mario's diet right is fundamental to his care. Sadly, this probably does mean giving him the "same, boring food". Consistency is the key here. He should have the same food every day, fed at regular times, and if he has insulin this should be given at fixed times too.
Mario's diet should consist of complex carbohydrate, as in whole grains, with a high fibre content to regulate his digestion. Ideally give him five or six very small meals daily with his insulin dose divided into two injections daily. There are specialised veterinary diets available. If he doesn't eat much that is fine as long as he isn't underweight. Less food means less need for insulin.
- Unspayed bitches are more likely to develop diabetes than other dogs and the disease often appears to be linked to seasons. All female diabetic dogs should ideally be spayed to help control their disease.
- Obesity predisposes dogs to diabetes. Maintaining pets at their ideal weight helps avoid this condition.
- Diabetes generally occurs in older dogs but can also crop up in breeds which are predisposed to the disease.
- Owners should inject their dogs in a different place each day so that it doesn't become too painful.