What to Feed Your Diabetic Dog

Diabetes mellitus is about a lack of insulin and a need to balance insulin given by injection with dietary nutrients, especially sugars, fats and proteins. Insulin is typically given only after the pet has eaten so the food should taste good and the pet should want to eat it. The food you feed your diabetic dog must be of a quality and quantity to maintain a good body condition so that the dog is able to build muscle and a healthy amount of body fat. Some diabetic dogs are very thin while others are too fat. It is important to discuss food choices with your veterinarian to tailor the diet to the individual dog rather than to adhere to rigid dietary rules. The ultimate goal is to feed your dog two similar meals a day, approximately 12 hours apart, with less than 10% of the total nutrients for the day coming from treats. Insulin is given within an hour of eating each meal and this schedule should be maintained with as much regularity as possible.

Things to keep in mind about food for the diabetic dog:

1. Talk to your veterinarian about the right food for your dog.

a. Be aware of foods that may lead to higher blood glucose levels after eating, including diets made for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Diets made for dogs with sensitive stomachs are made for easy digestion and absorption, which leads to higher glucose after eating.

b. Check the soft moist foods for ingredients. These foods may be preserved and flavored with sugars, leading to increased blood sugar.

c. If your dog has pancreatitis, fat restriction is a must, although fat restricted diets may not be a good idea for very thin diabetic dogs.

As long as the diet is consistent, it is generally possible to work with it in achieving diabetic regulation. Here are some additional tips:

* If the dog has an additional medical problem that requires a specific diet in its management, then this trumps the suggestions for diabetic management.

* As long as a reputable food that has passed AAFCO feeding trials is being fed, it should not be necessary to add nutritional supplements.

* Ideally, a brand of food with a fixed formula is preferred to one with an open formula. Foods with an open formula stick to their prioritized ingredient list on the label and to the guaranteed analysis minimums and maximums, but the exact ingredient amounts are not fixed. A fixed formula food uses specific amounts of each ingredient every time in every lot. In general, non-prescription diets are open formula diets.

Your veterinarian can help you choose the most appropriate food for your diabetic dog.

What is Bloat and Why is it so Serious for Dogs?

The normal stomach sits high in your dog’s abdomen and contains a small amount of gas, some mucus, and any food being digested. It undergoes a normal rhythm of contraction, receiving food from the esophagus above, grinding the food, and meting the ground food out to the small intestine at its other end. Normally this proceeds uneventfully except for the occasional burp.

In the bloated stomach, gas and/or food stretches the stomach many times its normal size, causing tremendous abdominal pain. For reasons we do not fully understand, this grossly distended stomach tends to rotate, thus twisting off not only its own blood supply but the only exit routes for the gas inside. Not only is this condition extremely painful but it is also rapidly life-threatening.

A dog with a bloated, twisted stomach (more scientifically called gastric dilatation and volvulus) will die in pain in a matter of hours unless drastic steps are taken.

What are the Risk Factors for Your Dog Developing Bloat?

Classically, this condition affects dog breeds which are said to be deep chested, meaning the length of their chest from backbone to sternum is relatively long while the chest width from right to left is narrow. Examples of deep chested breeds would be the Great Dane, Greyhound, and the setter breeds. But remember, any dog can bloat, even dachshunds and chihuahuas.

Dogs weighing more than 99 pounds have an approximate 20% risk of bloat

Factors Increasing the Risk of Bloating

* Feeding your dog only one meal a day

* Having closely related family members with a history of bloat

* Eating rapidly

* Being thin or underweight

* Moistening dry foods (particularly if citric acid is listed as a preservative)

* Feeding from an elevated bowl

* Restricting water before and after meals

* Feeding a dry diet with animal fat listed in the first four ingredients

* Fearful or anxious temperament

* History of aggression towards people or other dogs

* Male dogs are more likely to bloat than females

* Older dogs (seven – 12 years) were the highest risk group

Factors Decreasing the Risk of Bloat

* Including canned dog food in the diet

* Including table scraps in the diet

* Happy or easy-going temperament

* Feeding a dry food containing a calcium-rich meat meal (such as meat/lamb meal, fish meal, chicken by-product meal, meat meal, or bone meal) listed in the first four ingredients of the ingredient list.

* Eating two or more meals per day

Contrary to popular belief, cereal ingredients such as soy, wheat, or corn in the first four ingredients of the ingredient list do not increase the risk of bloat.

How to Tell if your Dog has Bloated

The hallmark presentation of bloat is a sudden onset of abdominal distention, distress, anxiety and pain (panting, guarding the belly, anguished facial expression), and multiple attempts at vomiting that are frequently unproductive. Not every dog will have a classic appearance and some dogs will not have obvious abdominal distention because of their body configuration. If you are not sure, it is best to err on the side of caution and rush your dog to the veterinarian IMMEDIATELY.

There are other potential emergencies (sudden abdominal bleeding from a ruptured tumor, for example) which might have a similar presentation so radiographs may be needed to determine what has happened. The image above shows the enormously distended stomach nearly upside down and shows what is often called the “double bubble” sign where the stomach is divided into two gas-filled sections suggesting the twist (volvulus) that makes the emergency so dire.

Saving a Dog’s Life

There are several steps to saving a bloated dog’s life. Part of the problem is that all steps should be done at the same time and as quickly as possible.

First: The Stomach must be Decompressed The huge stomach is by now pressing on the major blood vessels carrying blood back to the heart. This stops normal circulation and sends the dog into shock. Making matters worse, the stomach tissue is dying because it is stretched too tightly to allow blood circulation through it. There can be no recovery until the stomach is untwisted and the gas released. A stomach tube and stomach pump are generally used for this but sometime surgery is needed to achieve stomach decompression.

Also First: Rapid IV Fluids Must be Given to Reverse the Shock Intravenous catheters are placed and life-giving fluid solutions are rushed in to replace the blood that cannot get past the bloated stomach to return to the heart. The intense pain associated with this disease causes the heart rate to race at such a high rate that heart failure will result. Medication to resolve the pain is needed if the patient’s heart rate is to slow down. Medication for shock, antibiotics and electrolytes are all vital in stabilizing the patient.

Also First: The Heart Rhythm is Assessed and Stabilized

A special and very dangerous rhythm problem, called a premature ventricular contraction, or “PVC,” is associated with bloat and it must be ruled out. If this is the case, intravenous medications are needed to stabilize the rhythm. Since this rhythm problem may not be evident until even the next day, continual EKG monitoring may be necessary. Disturbed heart rhythm at the beginning of treatment is associated with a 38% mortality rate.

Getting the bloated dog’s stomach decompressed and reversing the shock is an adventure in itself but the work is not yet half finished.

Surgery

All bloated dogs, once stable, should have surgery. Without surgery, the damage done inside cannot be assessed or repaired, plus bloat may recur at any point, even within the next few hours, and the above adventure must be repeated. If the stomach has not untwisted with decompression, the surgeon untwists it and determines what tissue is viable and what is not. If there is a section of dying tissue on the stomach wall, this must be discovered and removed or the dog will die despite the heroics described above. Also, the spleen, which is located adjacent to the stomach, may twist with the stomach necessitating removal of the spleen or part of the spleen as well. After the nonviable tissue is removed, a surgery called a gastropexy is done to tack the stomach into its normal position so that it can never twist again.

After the expense and effort of the stomach decompression, it is tempting to forgo the further expense of surgery. However, consider that the next time your dog bloats, you may not be there to catch it in time and, according the study described below, without surgery there is a 24% mortality rate and a 76% chance of re-bloating at some point. The best choice is to finish the treatment that has been started and have the abdomen explored. If the stomach can be surgically tacked into place, recurrence rate drops to 6%.

Surgery will prevent the stomach from twisting in the future but the stomach is still able to periodically distend with gas. This is uncomfortable but not life-threatening.

Bloat Prevention: Gastropexy Surgery

Preventive gastropexy is an elective surgery usually done at the time of spay or neuter in a breed considered at risk. The gastropexy, as mentioned, tacks the stomach to the body wall so that it cannot twist and cause a life-threatening bloat. The stomach may distend with gas in an attempt to bloat but since twisting is not possible, this becomes a painful and uncomfortable situation but nothing more serious than that. Prophylactic gastropexy is found to make sense for at-risk breeds, especially the Great Dane, which is at highest risk for bloat.

Canine Spay FAQ

Surgical sterilization of the female dog, commonly referred to as spaying, is one of the most significant aspects of female dog care an owner can provide. The benefits to the dog FAR outweigh simply not having puppies, though as pet over-populations looms as a societal problem, it is important to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Spaying involves removal of the uterus and ovaries. It is a major surgery but a commonly performed one, ideally performed while a female dog is still in puppyhood, prior to her first heat cycle.

Here Are all the Reasons you should Spay your Female Dog

Mammary Cancer Prevention A female dog spayed before her first heat will have a near zero chance of developing mammary cancer.

After the first heat, this incidence climbs to 7% and after the second heat the risk is 25% (one in four!). It is easy to see that an early spay can completely prevent what is frequently a very difficult and potentially fatal form of cancer.

But is it too late if a dog is already past her second heat? No, in fact spaying is important even in female dogs who already have obvious tumors. This is because many mammary tumors are stimulated by estrogens; removing the ovaries, the source of estrogens, will help retard tumor spread.

Spaying removes both the uterus and both ovaries and is crucial in the prevention as well as the treatment of mammary cancer.

Pyometra Prevention Pyometra is the life-threatening infection of the uterus that generally occurs in middle-aged to older female dogs in the six weeks following heat. The hormone progesterone, which primes the uterus for potential pregnancy, does so by causing proliferation of the blood-filled uterine lining and suppressing uterine immune function. It is thus easy during heat for bacteria in the vagina to ascend to the uterus and cause infection. The uterus with pyometra swells dramatically and is filled with pus, bacteria, dying tissue, and toxins. Without treatment, the dog is expected to die. Despite her serious medical state, she must be spayed quickly if her life is to be saved.

Summing Up Pyometra

* Pyometra is an extremely common disease of unspayed female dogs. One in four female dogs who have survived to age 10 will get it.

* Without treatment, the dog will die.

* Treatment is expensive.

* Treatment involves surgery in a potentially unstable patient. Mortality rates with surgery have been reported as high as 17%.

* Spaying prevents the whole thing.

The older unspayed female dog has an irregular heat cycle. There is no end of cycling comparable to human menopause. If you still decide against spaying, be familiar with the signs of pyometra, which include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, excessive thirst, marked vaginal discharge.

Simple Convenience

The female dog comes into heat every eight months or so. There is a bloody vaginal discharge and local male dogs are attracted. Often there is an offensive odor.

All of this disappears with spaying.

It’s not just a Good Idea; in Some Places it’s the Law

Beginning April 2008, spaying of female dogs became mandatory in the city of Los Angeles. It was and is already mandatory for some nearby cities. This means it is not legal to own an unspayed female dog in these areas. Exceptions include law enforcement dogs, dogs currently in competition training, service dogs and dogs with a medical exemption. Fines begin at $100. The city came to this resolution largely because of the huge expenses associated with its overcrowded shelter system and its euthanasia rate of approximately 4000 unwanted dogs and cats per month. This problem comes down to one of population control; education has been inadequate to solve the problem as has simply charging $100 vs $10 to license unsterilized dogs. Spaying provides irreplaceable health benefits to the pet, convenience to the pet owner, benefit to the community, and it is now legally required.

Check the laws in your area, or ask your veterinarian.

Now That we Know Why it is a Good Idea to Spay, What Exactly Happens?

It is important that the patient has not been fed in at least 8 hours. Anesthetic medications commonly induce nausea and vomiting can be dangerous in a sedated patient (vomit can be inhaled/aspirated leading to pneumonia).

A preoperative evaluation is performed; blood work is recommended for older females and may be recommended as a normal preanesthetic consideration. An intravenous catheter may be placed to facilitate the administration of anesthetic drugs, for any fluid administration, and for use in case of emergency. This necessitates shaving a small patch of skin on one of the legs.

A tranquilizer or other pre-anesthetic medication may be administered to ease the induction of anesthesia.

A medication is given intravenously to induce sleep. This medication is called an induction agent and lasts only long enough to establish the maintenance of anesthesia by the inhalant anesthetic (gas). Once the dog is asleep, a tube is placed in her throat to ensure that a clear airway is maintained through out the procedure.

Sometimes a cough is noted for a couple of days after surgery. This may have been caused by the tube in the throat. Such coughs only last a couple of days; anything that persists longer should be re-evaluated.

The tube is hooked up to a machine that delivers a specific concentration of inhalant gas mixed in 100% oxygen. A technician is assigned to monitoring this pet so that the concentration of inhalant gas can be changed as needed and patient mucous membrane color, heart rate, respiration and other parameters are followed.

In the surgical prep area, the abdomen is shaved and scrubbed. The bladder is emptied and the patient is moved to a surgical suite, where she is draped with surgical cloths or papers to isolate the area where surgery will take place.

An incision is made on the midline of the abdomen, and the three points where the ovaries and uterus attaches are tied off and cut. The abdomen is checked for bleeding and two or three layers of stitches are placed to close the incision.

It is helpful to know that should the skin stitches come out, there are two layers below holding everything closed. Sometimes skin stitches are not placed but if they are, you will need to return in 10 to 14 days to have them removed.

The anesthesia technician continues monitoring until the dog wakes up and coughs out the throat tube.

The patient is kept in an observation room until she is able to walk.

I feel strongly that a night in the hospital is important to an uneventful recovery. This night in the hospital is analogous to strict bed rest, just what you would expect to be needed after a major abdominal surgery. This night also allows for proper administration of pain medication for a longer time period as well as a post-operative check up with the doctor the morning after surgery.

What to Expect at Home

Most spay patients go home the next day as if nothing had happened, although some will need pain medication for a few days.

Some nausea may occur in the first couple of days after surgery and it would not be unusual for the dog to refuse food for a day or two after surgery.

As noted above, a cough may persist for a couple of days as a result of the throat tube. This should not persist longer than a couple of days.

Dogs who show a propensity to lick their stitches will need an Elizabethan or “E” collar to restrict access to the stitches. This is not very comfortable for the dog but it must be used strictly until the stitches are out and the incision is healed.

Activity should be restricted during the week following surgery. Excessive activity can lead to swelling or fluid accumulation under the incision. If a fluid pocket does form, it should resolve on its own after a few weeks. If a fluid pocket forms and drains liquid from the incision, the dog should be re-checked with the veterinarian.

What about Behavioral Changes?

The female dog’s reproductive tract is dormant for most of the year. It only activates for the three-week period of heat. This means that from a behavioral stand point, the female dog acts spayed most of the time. This said, there has been a documented slowing of metabolism after spays and it may be necessary to use a reduced calorie food in an adult dog. Check with your veterinarian about nutritional recommendations.

Canine Neuter FAQ

Why Should I Neuter my Male Dog?

Aside from helping control the current overpopulation of dogs, neutering a pet dog generally makes for a healthier dog and a better pet. Neutered dogs tend to live longer and have fewer behavior problems (see below). They are less likely to be relinquished to the shelter and do not contribute to over-crowding in community animal shelters with their off-spring. The local government is more interested in having fewer roaming dogs that could be dangerous and having less burden on the animal services budget. Pet owners are more interested in having a well-behaved and long-lived family pet.

What are the Health Benefits to the Dog?

There are several health benefits to neutering. One of the most important concerns the prostate gland, which under the influence of testosterone will gradually enlarge over the course of the dog’s life. By age five years, it is usually significantly enlarged in an unneutered male dog. As the dog continues to age, his prostate is likely to become uncomfortable, possibly being large enough to interfere with defecation. The prostate under the influence of testosterone is also predisposed to infection, which is almost impossible to clear up without neutering. Neutering causes the prostate to shrink into insignificance, thus preventing both prostatitis as well as the uncomfortable benign hyperplasia (enlargement) that occurs with aging. It is often erroneously held that neutering prevents prostate cancer but this is not true; neuter benefits on the prostate are about preventing enlargement and infection. Other health benefits of neutering include the prevention of certain types of hernias and tumors of the testicles and anus. Excessive preputial discharge is also reduced by neutering.

What Behavioral Changes can be Expected after Neutering?

Numerous studies on the behavioral effects of neutering have been performed evaluating playfulness, fear of strangers, territorial aggression, mounting, urine-marking, roaming and other behaviors. The behaviors that are most consistently altered after neutering are inappropriate mounting, urine marking, and fighting. These behaviors were significantly reduced or completely eliminated in 50-60 percent of male dogs after neutering. Most pet owners look forward to curtailing these actions and thereby improving their relationship with the dog.

What Exactly is done Surgically?

An incision is made, generally just forward from the scrotum. The testicles are removed through this incision. The stalks are tied off and cut. Castration is achieved. If the testicles are not removed, the desirable benefits listed above cannot be realized. The skin incision may or may not have stitches.

At what Age can Neutering be Performed?

Male dogs can be neutered at just about any age though the traditional age for neutering is six to nine months of age, which is still before puberty. There is some controversy regarding when the best age for neutering should be: after puberty, traditional age or “early”, which can mean any age from eight weeks up to six months. Senior dogs can also benefit from neutering. A diseased, enlarged prostate will still shrink down to a comfortable size even in an older dog. The neuter is a relatively simple low-risk surgery, which means that even an older dog can still benefit.

The younger the pup is at neutering, the longer his long bones will continue to grow, which changes his conformation to a taller stature. This appears to have some musculoskeletal consequences, though surgical recovery at younger age is faster and there are fewer complications with the neuter itself.

Will he Become Over-Weight or Lethargic? Metabolism changes with neutering in such a way that there is a moderate risk of becoming overweight after neutering. The dog owner should be prepared to make adjustments in diet or exercise if the dog seems to be gaining too much weight.

Will he still be Interested in Females?

His interest will be reduced but if he is around a female dog in heat, he will become aroused by her. Mounting behavior often has roots in the expression of dominance and may be expressed by a neutered male in a variety of circumstances that are not motivated by sexuality.

What if a Dog has an Undescended Testicle?

Undescended testicles have an increased tendency to grow tumors. They may also twist on their stalks and cause life-threatening inflammation. For these reasons, neutering is recommended for dogs with undescended testicles. If there is one descended testicle, the dog will be able to breed but since retaining a testicle is a hereditary trait, it is important that the male dog not be bred before he is neutered. It is not a good idea to pass on the retained testicle trait.

Is Neutering Legally Required?

In some areas, neutering may be required as municipalities attempt to prevent pet overpopulation. Check with your local city or county officials.

Air Travel With Your Pets

If you are planning air travel with your pet, here are some things you need to know.

Travelling With Your Pet

  • Remember that in most cases you will need a USDA health certificate to travel by air with your pet. Check with the airline as to how many days before travel the certificate must be issued. The USDA considers a health certificate to be valid for 30 days, but many airlines and states have their own ideas about how long a health certificate should be valid and 10 days is typical for domestic travel.
  • A USDA health certificate is issued by a veterinarian certified to issue these certificates. Not all veterinarians can issue USDA certificates, so be sure to plan early to ask your veterinarian for a referral if he or she does not issue the certificates.
  • For international destinations, each country has its own requirements for animal travel. To learn more about travelling with your dog to different countries, visit the USDA website.  To see international requirements, check with the USDA database.
  • The USDA website also has domestic travel requirements.
  • Use a high-quality carrier, one that will be sturdy enough to not open or break.
  • Get your pet used to being inside the carrier prior to travel to minimize anxiety. Keep in mind that brachycephalic (short-faced) dog breeds may have difficulty breathing when agitated. Proper planning makes for a fun excursion for every member of the family, even the furry ones.
  • Consider implanting a microchip ID for any pet that travels.

Flying your Pet in the Cabin with you

  • Most airlines require pets to be 15 pounds or less to fly in the cabin with their owners (this weight includes both the pet and the carrier). This also means the carrier must fit under the seat in front of you.
  • Check with the airline about the carrier size and dimensions. Most airlines sell carriers or you can buy one from a pet supply store.
  • Be sure to confirm with the airline the day before travel that your pet is coming with you.
  • Some states require specific vaccinations. Travel to foreign countries now requires notarization of the certificate beyond the veterinarian’s signature. Always be sure to check with the country’s consulate regarding what you need.
  • Some animals may be stressed or frightened by travel. Consider tranquilizers. If your pet is traveling in the cabin with you, you may just want to have some on hand in case of unexpected anxiety.

Your Pet as Checked Luggage or Manifest Cargo

  • Some airlines have maximum weight requirements. Be sure to check, particularly if you have a big dog.
  • Most states will not accept animals younger than 8 weeks of age. Such youngsters will not be allowed to travel by air.

Federal regulations require that each kennel be properly marked as follows:

  • Display a “Live Animals” label with letters at least one inch high, on top and on at least one side of the kennel.
  • Indicate the top with arrows or “This End Up” markings on at least two sides.
  • Feeding instructions label: If food is necessary, it must be attached to the outside of the kennel.
  • Feeding certification attached: Certification must be attached to the kennel stating that the animal has been offered food and water within four hours prior to drop off at the airline. IMPORTANT: Do not feed your animal in the two (2) hours prior to departure, as a full stomach can cause discomfort for a traveling pet.
  • Contact information label: Label it with your name, address, and cell phone number, or phone number at origin and destination cities. It is also a good idea to include your pet’s name on the label (in case of escape, it may help to call the animal by name).
  • Include two empty dishes: One for food and one for water, securely attached to the container and accessible from the outside.
  • Absorbent material: The kennel must contain absorbent material or litter. (Black and white printed newspaper is a good choice). Please note that the use of straw, hay or wood shavings is prohibited for international shipments.
  • According to the Animal Welfare Act, there are specific temperature guidelines to which airlines must adhere. Ambient temperatures in holding areas for cats and dogs must not fall below 45⁰F for more than 45 minutes when being moved to or from a holding area.
  • Animals transported in a carry-on are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act, so it is up to the person carrying them to see that they do not become too cold or overheated.