​Common Myths About Canine Diabetes Debunked

Posted by Michelle for PetTest, AAHA Certified Diabetes Educator on Aug 19th 2022

​Common Myths About Canine Diabetes Debunked

Common Myths About Canine Diabetes Debunked

In today’s blog we will explore the myths and misconceptions about canine diabetes; from insulin causing blindness to diabetic dogs not being able to live happy, healthy lives and everything in between. Grab a cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage and let’s get to it.

Insulin Causes Blindness.

Once our dogs are diagnosed with diabetes mellitus and we start insulin therapy the misconception is that insulin causes diabetic cataracts but it is the lack of insulin that causes diabetic cataracts. The normal, nondiabetic blood glucose (BG) range is 70 – 120 mg/dL (3.88 – 6.66 mmol/L). Since the pancreas no longer produces insulin our dog’s BG is higher and higher BG levels causes strain on the organs including the eyes. Elevated BG levels in the aqueous humor and lens in the eyes can cause the lens to swell and this causes blurry vision. There are enzymes in the lens that convert glucose into sorbitol. Sorbitol buildup causes diabetic cataracts.

Tips: keeping BG at lower levels of 100 – 250 mg/dL (5.55 – 13.88 mmol/L) can help slow the progression of diabetic cataracts. An eye supplement will help with overall eye health but will not reverse or dissolve cataracts.

For more information, please read the following blogs on eye health:

I am giving my dog 10 mL of insulin every 12 hours.

Insulin dosage is based on units, not mL. If we were giving our diabetic dogs insulin in mL rather than units, we would go through a bottle of insulin every day. Here is a quick breakdown of insulin.

Vetsulin/Caninsulin/Prozinc – There are 40 units per 1 mL of insulin. A 10 mL vial of insulin has 400 units of insulin total. A pen cartridge has 2.7 mL of insulin in it, that is 108 units total.

NPH / Levemir / Lantus – There are 100 units of insulin per 1 mL. A 10 mL vial of insulin has 1,000 units total. Pen cartridges hold 3 mL which totals 300 units of insulin.

This blog explains the difference between insulin types:

Tip: Vetsulin / Caninsulin must be shaken to mix properly. NPH (Humulin NPH, Novolin N) and Prozinc should be rolled gently to mix. Lantus and Levemir do not need mixing.

My vet said I don’t need to test BG at home.

Some vets state that testing blood glucose levels at home is necessary and some don’t. Reasons that a vet might suggest not to home test are not wanting to stress the client (you) out after the shocking diagnosis of diabetes, the vet does not have a good knowledge base of canine diabetes, or the vet feels that the dog’s care should be controlled only at the vet office. I was lucky because my vet is AAHA certified and supports home testing.

You must be able to test blood glucose levels at home. Insulin is a strong hormone that we inject into our dogs every twelve hours. Too much insulin can cause a hypoglycemic event and that can be fatal. Not enough insulin can cause diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which is painful, expensive and fatal if not treated. These complications can be avoided by testing BG at home. By testing at home we know it is safe to give insulin, we can run curves at home and email results to the vet for evaluation and we can test any time our dog is acting off.

Tip: Learning to test BG can be a bit confusing and stressful. Please read the following blogs and if you have questions or need help please reach out!

My dog won’t live a normal and healthy life.

Diabetes diagnosis does not mean your dog cannot live a full life. Lucy was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus at eleven years old and passed at almost 16 years old from kidney failure due to old age. We have many members whose dogs are thriving five to eight years post diagnosis!

And while it is true that the median life span of a dog diagnosed with diabetes is two years, there are a couple factors that play a role:

Age – Most diabetic dogs are diagnosed when they are seniors.

Concurrent diseases / illnesses – Liver disease, kidney disease, cancer, chronic pancreatitis, etc.

Mismanaging canine diabetes – Not home testing blood glucose levels or urine for ketones, not managing appropriate diet can be contributing factors in a diabetic dog’s life span.

Tip: Getting into a consistent routine with your dog’s care will help you and your dog live your best life. Please take a few minutes to read You Want Me to Do What?! A guide to successfully managing canine diabetes.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please start a conversation below.

Links to pet diabetes supplies are below!

Until next week stay comfy, cool and caffeinated!

Michelle Miller-Matlock

AAHA Certified Diabetes Educator

Administrator of Diabetic Dog Owners on Facebook

Founder/Administrator of DDO-U: Diabetic Dog Owners University

A printable PDF of this blog is available by clicking here.

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