Q: My dog was just diagnosed with diabetes and it’s overwhelming for me. Can you help me understand what diabetes is and how it will affect my dog?
A: Diabetes mellitus is a condition where the animal’s blood sugar gets extremely elevated due to a lack of insulin or the insensitivity of the cells to insulin. The result is that the cells do not get the necessary sugar that they need to function and this leaves excessive sugar in the blood stream. The consequences of this condition are very dire and can result in death if left untreated.
The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin and, in dogs, it can stop producing insulin, which will lead to diabetes (Type 1 diabetes). In cats, however, diabetes is a consequence of the cells of the body becoming resistant to insulin, typically due to obesity (Type 2 diabetes).
Unfortunately, a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus means that your dog will now need insulin administered daily to make up for the lack of insulin produced by his body.
This may seem easy to do but, in fact, it is very challenging because the body is a very complicated machine. Regulating hormones, including insulin, is a very sensitive and tightly regulated system that the body keeps under strict control. When it goes awry, the consequences are serious and can lead to life altering repercussions.
When we start a dog on insulin we begin at a lower dose and let the body adjust to the dose over one to two weeks. We then check the blood glucose levels, so we can determine how much we need to adjust it. This takes time and monitoring of the blood sugars to get to an appropriate dose. As you can imagine, the dose can fluctuate with exercise and diet and whether or not the pet has any other medical conditions.
Any other medical issue such as urinary tract infections or Cushing’s disease can change your dog’s response to the administered insulin and make regulating the diabetes very challenging.
The most important challenge of taking care of a diabetic animal is that you will need to be regimented with both their diet and insulin injections. At-home blood sugar monitoring kits for animals are also available for purchase online and these can help you monitor the blood glucose levels more closely at home.
Always check with your veterinarian before you try to adjust insulin doses at home so that you do not cause any harm! Diabetic animals can live long and happy lives, but it takes time, money, and patience to manage them for the long-term.
Q: Is the flu vaccine necessary for my dog?
A: There are two flu vaccines available for dogs that protect against H3N8 and H3N2 flu viruses.
These are two separate vaccines that do not offer any cross protection against the other strain or any strains that might be circulating. So, a dog that is vaccinated with the H3N8 vaccines can still get the H3N2 strain. The most recent outbreak in Michigan in 2015 was the H3N2 strain.
The canine flu is transmitted via direct contact with another dog that has the flu. Typically, we see outbreaks where there are a high number of dogs in close quarters such as dog boarding facilities or dog shows.
Just like all the vaccines that we give to our companion animals, we pick the ones that will protect them from diseases that they might be exposed to in their daily lives. So, if your dog never goes to boarding facilities or you never travel with your dog then the flu vaccine is not necessary.
If you own a show dog and you travel extensively to shows, then the flu vaccine should be considered. Luckily, the mortality rate for canine flu is less than 1%.