Much like in humans, diabetes is on the rise at an alarming rate among our canine companions. Banfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health 2016 report states that diabetes in dogs has increased nearly 80 percent over the preceding decade.
As part of properly caring for your guide, hearing, or service dog, you need to be mindful of how to reduce your assistance dog’s risk of diabetes. The disease will cause your dog to suffer, interfere with her ability to focus on and perform tasks, make her more susceptible to other health problems, make your daily care routing more complicated and costly, and likely shorten your dog’s life.
There are, of course, no guarantees that your canine partner won’t develop diabetes. Genetics, breed, age, and other risk factors come into play, and some thing are just beyond anyone’s control. But the condition is often preventable, and there are a number of simple ways to reduce your assistance dog’s risk of diabetes.
Ways to Help Prevent Canine Diabetes
- Monitor your assistance dog’s health closely. Be on the lookout for signs and symptoms that something is wrong. A number of diseases, such as Cushing’s disease—one of the most common endocrine disorders in dogs—and pancreatitis, raise the risk of developing diabetes. Timely treatment and successful ongoing management are important to preventing diabetes and other potential complications.
- Make annual or semi-annual veterinary appointments. This goes along with the above; regular veterinary checkups help keep your hearing, service, or guide dog healthy. They also help ensure that health concerns are caught early and that intervention begins promptly.
- See to it that your assistance dog maintains a healthy weight. Being overweight is one of the most significant risk factors for developing canine diabetes. Here’s some more information about ideal body weight in dogs.
- Keep your dog physically active. The life of one assistance dog and another varies greatly. Some are out and about and active for much of the day, but others aren’t. If yours isn’t often on the go, make sure she gets plenty of exercise during her off times. Ask someone for help if you can’t provide daily physical activity, as it’s so important to maintenance of a healthy weight and diabetes prevention.
- Feed your assistance dog a healthy diet. Like regular exercise, diet is key to maintaining a healthy weight. Buy quality dog food that’s high in protein and relatively low in simple carbohydrates. Fresh fruit and veggies (the dog-safe ones, of course!) are a superior source of carbs than grains. But quality isn’t all that matters; quantity does too. Talk to your vet about how much you should feed your assistance dog.
- Have female dogs spayed. This shouldn’t be an issue with an assistance dog, but we wanted to include the fact that female dogs who aren’t spayed are at higher risk for developing diabetes.
- See your vet if you notice symptoms of diabetes. Most notably, these include increased thirst and urination and appetite changes. These could be an indication that your assistance dog has pre-diabetes. It’s crucial—and possible—for you and your vet to start working together immediately to prevent the condition from developing into diabetes.