Q: My 8-year-old dog has diabetes. Is it difficult to care for such a dog, and is it fair to the dog to do so? I. McK.
A: Keeping a diabetic dog is not difficult, and those who have done it report that it is well worthwhile and that, after the initial stabilization, it is neither time-consuming nor expensive. Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. The missing hormone, insulin, will need to be supplied by daily injections under the skin. It is easy to learn how to administer such injections, which do not hurt much because very fine, sharp needles are used. Regular meals are also essential, and the animal's diet must be stable; no table scraps or tidbits are allowed. Activity and daily routines also must be controlled.
Your veterinarian will keep your dog for a few days to determine the amount of insulin needed and to start your dog on a selected dog food. You will be shown how to administer the injections, instructed as to what to feed the animal, and shown how to test the dog's urine for insulin. You will need to watch for signs of insulin reaction or too much insulin, which would result in hypoglycemia (low-blood sugar); signs to watch for are weakness or sudden collapse. This can also occur if a dog does not eat its food or gets too much exercise. Then give the dog a lump of sugar or a glucose tablet at once.
You will need to determine whether the diabetes is being sufficiently controlled; watch for signs such as excessive hunger, abnormal drinking and too-frequent urination. Routine checkups may be necessary. Dr. Clarke welcomes pet-care questions for use in this column, but regrets she cannot answer mail personally. Send your questions to Pet Doctor, Home magazine, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.