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What to Do if Your Labrador Retriever is Diagnosed with Diabetes

Diabetes is a huge problem in the United States but it affects more than just humans – it is also becoming an increasingly common issue among dogs like the Labrador Retriever.

Labs are not necessarily more prone to diabetes than other dogs, but they do have a tendency to put on weight which can increase their risk. If your dog suffers from diabetes you will need to make some changes to his diet and you’ll need to work with your vet to manage his condition.

Causes and Symptoms of Diabetes

When your dog eats food, his body breaks the food particles down into their most basic components such as glucose. The glucose is then transported throughout his body and into his cells by a hormone called insulin. When a dog’s body is incapable of properly utilizing or producing insulin, it results in diabetes. In most cases, dogs that develop diabetes are also overweight or obese – most of these dogs develop Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an inherited condition which is characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin. Dogs with Type 1 diabetes need to be given insulin injections to manage their blood sugar levels while dogs with Type 2 diabetes may be able to manage their condition through dietary changes.

Some of the most common symptoms of diabetes in dogs include excessive thirst or increased urination, weight loss or change in appetite, lethargy, sweet-smelling breath, recurring urinary tract infections, cataracts or blindness, and chronic skin infections. The exact cause for diabetes in dogs is unknown but things like weight, autoimmune disease, genetics, and certain medications or health problems are common risk factors. All dogs have the potential to develop this disease but it seems to be most common in obese dogs and female dogs between 6 and 9 years old. It also seems to be more common in certain breeds like Poodles, Dachshunds, Samoyeds, and Labrador Retrievers.

Managing Your Dog’s Diet

In some cases, diabetes treatment will involve injecting your dog with insulin to help stabilize his blood sugar levels. In order to keep his blood sugar levels from getting too high or too low, however, you will also have to manage his diet. Feeding your dog portioned meals at regular intervals throughout the day will help to keep his blood sugar stable and you should avoid feeding him foods that are too high in glucose. Many veterinarians recommend a high-fiber, low-fat diet for dogs with diabetes because fiber helps to control the uptake of glucose into the bloodstream and it also helps your dog to feel full without overindulging. Low-fat foods also have fewer calories which will help your Lab maintain a healthy weight. You should avoid feeding diabetic dogs too many treats and it is important to ensure that your Lab gets regular exercise. Just try to avoid unusually long or vigorous workouts.

Unfortunately, diabetes is a fairly common problem in Labrador Retrievers – especially in dogs that are overweight or obese. If your Labrador is diagnosed with diabetes you need to work closely with your veterinarian to manage his weight and his diet. With time and effort, you may be able to reverse your dog’s diabetes.

Photo credit: Edgie168/Flickr