Exercising Your Diabetic Dog

Exercise is a core aspect of canine health and wellbeing. For diabetic dogs, exercise has both well-being and treatment functions. Specifically, dogs with diabetes need regular exercise like all other dogs. However, exercise for diabetic dogs needs to be regulated because it affects blood glucose levels in your pet’s body.

Whether it is an exercise for training a diabetic dog or as part of the daily diabetes management regimen, dog owners with diabetic dogs need to know some facts and requirements about exercising their diabetic dogs.

This article gives diabetic dog owners a complete guide to exercising a diabetic dog.  You’ll find well-researched info about:

  • Why exercise is important for dogs.
  • The importance of exercising your diabetic dog.
  • How much exercise does your diabetic dog needs?
  • How you can safely exercise your diabetic dog.
  • Which exercises work best for your diabetic dog.
  • Why do diabetic dogs need a regular exercise routine?
  • The best time to exercise your diabetic dog.
  • How long you should walk your diabetic dog.

Find all the details you need to know on these topics in the rest of the article.

Why Exercise Is Important for Dogs

Every dog needs exercise. Regularly exercising your dog keeps your pet at a healthy weight and is a primary mental stimulant. Regular dog exercise is associated with core health benefits like preventing chronic conditions and diseases. In addition, exercising your dog is also linked with the reduction of the adverse effects of the disease.

A dog doing the excercise.

Active dogs with daily physical and mental exercise are less prone to problems like obesity, arthritis, and behavioral problems. That is why prospective dog owners should know beforehand if they can give their future pets the daily exercise time that their dog requires before bringing the pet home. 

Making this evaluation in advance is crucial also because every dog will require a different amount and type of exercise depending on the following factors:

Breed

A dog’s exercise needs are determined by its breed-defined energy levels, primarily related to what they were bred for. Dogs bred to work will have higher energy levels and need more daily exercise compared to dogs bred as toy dogs.

Also, dogs from long-muzzle breeds can withstand prolonged vigorous exercise compared to brachycephalic dog breeds whose face shape causes breathing problems.

Age

Both puppies and adult dogs need exercise. However, puppies’ joints are not fully developed and should be introduced gradually to exercise and not pushed to the limits. Also, senior dogs need lesser exercise than healthy adult dogs. 

Dog exercise preferences

This may sound strange, but dogs of different breeds come with diverse exercise preferences, to which you should pay attention. For example, Labrador retrievers will naturally enjoy swimming, while smaller breeds like the Bichon Frise and the Pomeranian may not really enjoy a dip in the water.

Health

An injured or sick dog may not require the usual one or two-hour daily exercise. While some exercise is important to keep your unhealthy dog happy, it should be as much as the pet can take and according to the vet’s instructions. 

Some sick dogs require exercise as part of disease management and treatment, and that includes diabetic dogs.

Exercise For Diabetic Dogs: Why it’s Important?

Diabetic dogs are dogs with an insulin deficiency disease that upsets the pet’s production and response to the insulin hormone. As a result, a diabetic dog cannot regulate the glucose level in the body, leading to unbalanced urine concentration in the kidneys and unstable energy levels. 

A sick dog lying on a bed.

There are several other consequences of diabetes in dogs shown in symptoms like extreme thirst, increased appetite, frequent urination, and lethargy. 

You can read more on the symptoms of diabetes in dogs.

Because dog exercise relies on the energy generated by the glucose in their blood, diabetic dogs need their exercise level and type regulated. You could be tempted to think that a diabetic dog is better not spending their energy so they can keep it stored for when they need it. Wrong thinking!

Exercise is extremely important for diabetic dogs. Here are two significant reasons why:

Exercise Helps Maintain Healthy Dog Weight

Inactivity or lack of exercise is among the major causes linked with obesity and overweight in dogs. While obesity and overweight are not direct causes of diabetes in dogs, dogs that are obese or overweight are at risk for diabetes mellitus. This is because obesity causes pancreatitis, the inflammation disease that destroys the pancreas’ beta cells that produce insulin

Exercising helps diabetic dogs to maintain a healthy weight which is crucial in enhancing the body’s reaction to insulin. All this means that a healthy-weight diabetic dog has improved diabetes clinical signs and better conditions for balanced blood glucose levels. 

You can read about how to determine if your dog has a healthy weight in our article, “Can You Prevent Diabetes in Dogs?” 

Exercise Helps Regulate Glucose in Your Dog’s Body

Exercise uses up energy, and energy is produced by the sugar in your dog’s blood. Exercising your diabetic dog consumes energy, lowers blood sugar concentration, and helps increase blood flow, which is key in insulin absorption.

In this sense, exercising your dog does not just help maintain a healthy weight but also controls the effects of dog diabetes on your dog’s quality of life. 

So, exactly how much exercise is required to help your diabetic dog live a healthy life?

How Much Exercise Does Your Diabetic Dog Need?

A precise exercise prescription for all diabetic dogs is impossible. That’s because every diabetic dog is unique, and the management of diabetes is different for each case. 

That said, it’s important that you and your dog’s vet work together to determine how much exercise is healthy for your diabetic dogs. 

The general rule is that your diabetic dog should continue with the same amount of exercise the pet was doing before he got sick, with adaptations according to current blood glucose levels and overall health condition.

If your dog was not exercising before becoming diabetic, work with your pet’s veterinarian to create a daily exercise plan that’s safe and unique for your dog. This will take into account your dog’s general health condition, the pet’s diabetes status, and other factors like age. Exercise should be picked gradually for a diabetic dog that did not exercise regularly before diagnosis. 

Also, ensure you keep an exercise routine with the same frequency, pace, duration, and time. Consistency is key in maintaining a balance in your dog’s blood sugar levels. Avoid longer hours of exercising your diabetic dog when you have the time over weekends and shorter hours when you are busy with work or exhausted. Routine is paramount to safely exercising your dog.

How Do I Safely Exercise My Diabetic Dog?

Exercising your diabetic dog is one aspect of dog diabetes management and should be understood within the diabetes management equation: 

Insulin treatment + Diet+ Exercise

What this means is that for exercise to be beneficial to your diabetic dog’s health, it should be regulated within the entire diabetes treatment and management plan.

Specifically, you should:

  • Avoid exercising your dog within the first hour or one and a half hours after an insulin injection. Given that insulin is given after a meal. Exercising your dog during this time can disrupt insulin absorption. If you test your dog’s blood glucose after this time and it is in the safe range (100–250 mg/dl / 5.6–13.9 mmol/L), then you can comfortably take your dog for a walk.
  • Do not exercise your dog if the glucose level is low or involve the pet in high-energy activities that can cause the sugar levels to drop dramatically. Learning what exercises are safe for your dog and how to give food to fuel your dog’s energy levels for exercise is important. All this means a consistent insulin treatment, feeding, and exercise plan.
  • Always carry a dog diabetes walk kit when out of the house with your diabetic pet. While poop bags are obvious in a dog’s walk bag, diabetic dog owners should include a glucometer, test strips, a bottle of honey or a fast-acting dextrose gel, and fast-acting carbohydrate treats. 
A dog doing exercise with its owner.

In case of big drops og blood glucose

If during a walk your dog’s glucose levels drop below 100 mg/dl (5.6mmol/L), give a treat to boost their energy. If sugar levels are dangerously low (around 60 mg/dL / 3.3 mmol/L), rub honey or dextrose gel on your dog’s gums to boost sugar levels instantly. Low blood sugar can lead to hyperglycemia, which can be life-threatening if left unattended.

In the beginning, when your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll need to work closely with the vet. Start to record your dog’s blood sugar level reaction to specific exercises until you can devise a safe exercise regimen for your dog. 

Of course, this will need adjustments along the way depending on how your dog’s diabetes is advancing. Nonetheless, knowing what exercises are best for your diabetic dog is key.

What Exercises Work Best for a Dog with Diabetes?

A diabetic dog is prone to blood sugar fluctuations because its body cannot regulate it correctly. It’s important to discover how much exercises is needed for your dog’s blood sugar levels stay in the safe range. The goal should be (100–250 mg/dl (5.6–13.9 mmol/L) for the better part of the day.

Your dog’s vet will most likely tell you that low-impact and less vigorous activities are best for your diabetic dog. Low-energy exercises promote your dog’s cardiovascular health without putting strain on their energy and blood glucose levels.

Such activities include:

  • Walking/jogging in the morning and evening at a pace and for a distance your dog can take without adversely disrupting their blood sugar levels.
  • Swimming, depending on whether your dog enjoys being in the water.
  • Low-energy play time in the home can serve as both a low-energy spending activity and mental stimulation for your diabetic dog. Indoor activities and simple diabetic dog training activities can include interactive toy games, tug of war, hide and seek, and training in new tricks. 

With a young dog, low-energy obedience training activities should also be factored in during scheduled activity time.

Exercising your Diabetic Dog FAQs

These FAQs emphasize the key points of exercising your diabetic dog as a core diabetes management aspect for your pet.

Why Do Diabetic Dogs Need a Regular Exercise Routine?

A regular exercise routine helps maintain stable blood sugar levels in your dog’s body. This is because exercise consumes blood sugar converted to energy. As such, extreme changes in exercise patterns can disrupt sugar levels in the pet’s blood. 

Additionally, insulin dosages are calculated according to your dog’s energy requirement. Adverse changes in exercise can also disrupt insulin absorption in the body. Besides, regular and moderate exercise is recommended for maintaining a healthy weight.

When is the Best Time to Exercise a Diabetic Dog?

The recommended time to exercise your dog is an hour or an hour and a half after the insulin shot. Remember that insulin is administered after a meal every 12 hours. Within this plan, it is best to exercise your dog after the morning and evening meal and insulin shot.

Waiting too long to exercise after the dog’s meal or insulin injection can cause a dangerous drop in glucose levels. Low blood sugar levels could lead to hypoglycemia if not boosted on time.

How Long Should I Walk My Diabetic Dog?

When your pup is first diagnosed with diabetes, work with your pup’s vet to create an exercise regimen. This exercise schedule should be created by:

  1. Testing your pet’s blood sugar numbers before a walk.
  2. Noting the length, time, and intensity of the walk.
  3. Testing the blood sugar levels after the walk.

Check and make sure your dog has a safe range blood sugar level before a walk. If a 30 minute walk dangerously lowers the dog’s blood sugar levels you should reduce the time and length. Doing this a few times should help you answer just how long you should walk your diabetic dog.

Final Note

The information in this article is created from the available research on dog diabetes and is general knowledge. Since your dog’s case is unique, the best way to ensure you safely exercise your diabetic dog is to always work with your pet’s veterinarian.