Can You Prevent Diabetes In Dogs?

Diabetes is frequently listed among the most common diseases in dogs. One in every 300 dogs gets diabetes at some point in their life. With such a high prevalence, dog owners often wonder whether it is possible to prevent diabetes in dogs. So, is diabetes preventable?

Unfortunately, there is very little that dog owners can do to prevent canine diabetes. Studies have consistently shown that genetics play a primary role in the development of dog diabetes.

That said, it is important to know that there are nutritional and lifestyle measures that can reduce the risk of your dog getting diabetes. We’ll discuss these measures at length. But first, a quick recap of what is dog diabetes will help us better understand the preventive measures.

What is Dog diabetes?

Dog diabetes is a chronic insulin deficiency disease that occurs when your dog’s pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin or produces it at insufficient levels. Your dog can also have diabetes if the pet’s body has an abnormal response to the insulin hormone.

A diabetic dog sitting on the floor.
Photo Credit: little__biest

There are two major but unrelated types of diabetes in dogs: diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. But when people ask, “is diabetes in dogs common” they usually refer to the more common type, diabetes mellitus. 

Diabetes insipidus is rare in dogs, which is why most information on dog diabetes and how to prevent dog diabetes is usually about diabetes mellitus. There are also two major types of diabetes mellitus: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. 

Because of the insulin insufficiency or dysfunction in the dog’s response to the hormone, diabetic dogs cannot regulate the glucose levels in their blood. As a result, their energy levels are unbalanced, and so is the urine concentration in their kidneys. Diabetic dogs will also show signs such as extreme thirst, frequent urination, increased appetite, and general weakness.

Dogs with certain characteristics are more prone to diabetes. These include older dogs, females, obese or overweight dogs, dogs with underlying health conditions, and those from certain dog breeds. 

Read more about the causes of diabetes.

Because canine diabetes is incurable, every little effort to keep your dog from getting the disease counts as compulsory responsibility of dog owners to their pets. So, how exactly can you help prevent diabetes in your dog? Let’s talk about that in the rest of the article.

How to Prevent Diabetes in Your Dog?

Despite the hard truth that there’s no guarantee your dog will not get diabetes at some point in their life, dog owners should capitalize on every possible measure that could limit the chances of their pet getting the disease.

These 5 measures will help reduce the risk of diabetes in your dog:

  • Ensure your dog has a healthy weight always.
  • Spay your female dog.
  • Ensure your dog gets regular exercise.
  • Take your dog for regular checkups.
  • Manage your dog’s underlying health conditions.

Ensure Your Dog has a Healthy Weight Always

Obesity and overweight are significant risk factors for dog diabetes. This means it is important to ensure your dog always has a healthy weight. 

But what is a healthy dog weight?

Healthy dog weight is not indicated by the values we read on generic dog weight charts. These charts show the weight range for adult male and female dogs of a specific breed. 

However, every dog is unique in physique and metabolic functions and can have a different body weight from another dog of the same breed.

Dog nutrition experts have suggested that you should calculate your dog’s healthy or ideal weight using their Body Condition Score.

Dog body condition score or Canine BCS is assessed on a 5 or 9-point scale. Dogs with an average score (3-4/5 or 4-5/9) are considered healthy. You need to physically examine your dog’s abdomen, ribs, and waistline to determine where the pet lies on the scale. Watch this video and learn how to tell your dog’s body condition score:

With your dog’s BCS, you can use these steps by PETMD to determine the pet’s ideal healthy weight. (We’ll assume your dog’s BSC is 8 and their actual weight is 80lbs).

  1. Take the identified dog BCS and subtract 5 (8-5=3)
  2. Multiply the result in step 1 by 10 (3*10=30)
  3. Add 100 (30+100=130).
  4. Divide 100 by the result in step 3 and round up to 3 digits (100/130=.769).
  5. Multiply the result in step four by your dog’s actual weight (.769*80=61.5)

Your dog’s healthy weight should be 61.5lbs, which would mean the dog in our example is obese. You can also use the PETMD online dog healthy weight calculator here. Remember that this is one of the many suggestions available and that working with your dog’s vet is extremely important.

To ensure your dog has a healthy weight, nutrition is a primary factor, and knowing your dog’s ideal healthy weight helps you manage better your pet’s nutrition. In consultation with your dog’s vet, you should make a balanced diet plan and determine your pet’s daily calorie requirement and exercise needs. 

Spay your Female Dog

It is a research-backed fact that intact female dogs are at a greater risk of diabetes than their spayed counterparts

A dog getting spayed by a veteran.
Photo Credit: aleksandar_veterinar

Female dogs’ susceptibility to diabetes is associated with the insulin imbalance caused by the high progesterone levels during the sexually inactive period known as dioestrus. For this reason, this type of diabetes is described as dioestrus-induced diabetes.

Spaying your female dog reduces the counteracting effect of progesterone on insulin, thereby reducing your pet’s risk for diabetes.

Ensure your Dog has Regular Exercise

There’s no standard rule on how much exercise your dog should get every day. According to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), the amount of exercise your dog requires is unique to your dog, depending on these factors:

  • Breed
  • Age
  • Health status
  • Dog exercise preferences

You should always consult your dog’s vet about your pet’s exercise regimen to ensure it fits within the dog’s unique exercise requirements.

Exercising your dog has many health benefits, including mental stimulation and keeping the pet’s weight in check. Ideal dog weight reduces the risk of obesity, a significant risk for dog diabetes.

Also, exercise utilizes energy, and energy relies on your dog’s blood glucose level. As such, a balanced exercise schedule means balance in your dog’s blood sugar levels.

Take your Dog for Regular Checkups

Most vets will tell you that one checkup annually is enough if your dog is healthy. Others will advise taking your dog for a checkup every 6 months.

Frequent checkups are recommended if you have an aging dog. Studies have shown that older dogs are at a greater risk for diabetes. Age often comes with chronic inflammations, which are linked with diseases such as diabetes. 

Having your dog checked regularly helps confirm that your dog is keeping healthy. If your dog has health issues, regular checkups will help pick diseases like diabetes in their early stages, making it easier to manage the condition.

Manage your Dog’s Underlying Health Conditions

A dog getting examined by a veteran.
Photo Credit: bri.are.family

There are diseases associated with dog predisposition to diabetes. Proper treatment and management of these diseases help in dog diabetes prevention by reducing the predisposing risks. For example:

  • Dogs with pancreatitis should be given a low-fat diet.
  • Dogs with Cushing’s disease should be treated and managed with FDA-approved medication.

In all cases, it is important to work with your dog’s vet to ensure your dog gets the best treatment.

Canine Diabetes Prevention FAQs

Below are a few questions dog owners often ask about dog diabetes.

Do Certain Foods Predispose Dogs to Diabetes?

There is no proven direct link between dog diet and diabetes. Although you may come across info suggesting that dogs who consume food with high levels of carbohydrates are at a greater risk of diabetes, this seems unfounded. 

According to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, even the carb-rich dry kibble is safe for your dog because there is no evidence linking diabetes and dietary carbohydrates. 

However, it is important to feed your dog a healthy diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates but low in fat and in the recommended portions. Doing so works against overweight and obesity, which are known predisposing risks for diabetes. Instead, dietary carbohydrates should be reduced for dogs already diagnosed with diabetes.

Is Diabetes in Dogs Reversible?

Diabetes in dogs is not curable, and most canine diabetes patients need insulin injections for the rest of their lives. However, dog owners who may have the question, ‘can a dog’s diabetes go away’ will be interested to know that sporadic studies have shown hope for diabetes remission. Here are three examples: 

  • Dogs have shown complete remission for type 1 diabetes following a single gene therapy session. (Source)
  • A shot of collagen and pancreatic cells formulation every few months could reverse Type 1 diabetes in dogs and humans. (Source)
  • Diabetes remission was recorded in female dogs after problems related to ovarian activity were resolved through the removal of the ovaries. (Source)

These signs of hope for dog diabetes cure should not serve to water down the obvious reasons why diabetes prevention is better than cure.