Pancreatic disease in dogs has a number of serious forms so I am going to start by talking about the location of the pancreas in dog s and then some of the more common form of disease. Diabetic dog will be the first area for discussion.
The pancreas in dogs, located alongside the first section of the small intestine, has what are called ‘ exocrine ‘ functions which involves the production of digestive enzymes. These enzymes break down the fats, proteins and carbohydrates so they can be absorbed by the body. The other process is called ‘endocrine‘ function which basically controls the sugars in the blood by producing insulin to control blood glucose levels.
I am going to talk about both forms of pancreatic function in dogs but given that both functions are lengthy I am going to break into two parts. Diabetes in dogs firstly and then in the next newsletter exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in dogs.
There are 2 types of diabetes – we are looking at type 2 here!
As mentioned above the dog’s pancreas regulates blood glucose levels by using insulin but when not enough is produced or the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly diabetes occurs .
Before going further, I think it important to dispel a few myths with regards to diabetes in dogs.
Myth 1. Once the dog’s pancreas stops producing insulin it will never start again.
This is wrong – given the correct food, the dogs pancreas can be encouraged to produce insulin again. This can be done once you vets brings your dogs diabetes under control with insulin.
Myth 2. Once on insulin, always on insulin.
You will need to work with your vet after introducing a quality diet so they can monitor the insulan required and reduce going forward as appropriate.
Myth 3. Diabetes is hereditary and you cannot prevent it
Also wrong – Diet is what causes diabetes in dogs and dog owners fail to understand the connection between their dogs diet and diabetes.
Many dogs and cats eat a diet high in simple (refined ) carbohydrates which are like sugar. White rice, white flour, maize flour. The refined carbohydrates has glucose which the body quickly burns and releases the glucose into the bloodstream at the rate of around 30 calories per minute. Complex (unrefined ) carbohydrates, like whole grain brown rice, oats etc, release the glucose into the bloodstream at the rate of 1 or 2 calories per minute. The high calorie release associated with highly refined carbohydrates stresses the pancreas because of the high glucose and subsequent high levels of insulin required to regulate it.
Early warning signs of a diabetic dog
- Dramatic increase in thirst
- Dramatic increase in your dogs appetite.
- Increase in your dogs urine production
- Noticeable weight loss
- Breath may smell sweet
If your dog is experiencing the above signs take it to the vet and explain your observations.
If your dog is diagnosed with diabetes the vet will administer insulin and give you instructions on how and when to do it yourself. Only once your dog has been stabilised can you start to deal with the process of recovery with diet and supplements.
Diet for diabetic dogs should contain whole food grains like brown rice and good quality fibre like oats. The reason for this are mentioned above,
Chromium : blood sugar levels has been shown to have been regulated and the secondary effects of your dogs diabetes reduced. Should only be given once daily
Small dog = 25 mcg (mcg = micrograms. 25 mcg = 0.025 milligrams or mg)
Medium dog =50mcg, Large Dog = 100mcg. Giant dogs = 150mcg
Goldenseal – a herb shown to reduce the amount of insulin necessary to control your dogs blood sugar level. Use alcohol free tincture with a couple of teaspoonfuls of water and give twice a day.
Small dog = 5 drops twice daily, Medium dogs =10 drops, large dog = 12drops, Giant dogs =15drops
Gymnema Sylvestre is a herb traditionally used for supporting balanced blood sugar levels and dulling the palate to the taste of sweets. Gymnema is fascinating in that it works a multifaceted path towards maintaining healthy blood sugar. On the one hand, Gymnema Sylvestre (also called Gurmar, meaning “sweet destroyer”) helps support healthy pancreas functions. By working directly on the level of the blood it helps balance the blood sugar levels.
Caution: always work with your vet when using diet and supplements as they will alter the synthetic insulin required