It is one thing pet sitting for a healthy animal, but what if you are asked to care for a dog with diabetes?
There is little data on the prevalence of pets in Australia with diabetes. However, what we do know is that the obesity rate amongst cats and dogs is rising. Indeed, more than 40% of Aussie dogs and approximately 30% of Aussie cats are obese or overweight, putting them at higher risk of diabetes.
Pet owners who have diabetic dogs often require assistance to care for their four-legged friends, particularly if they work full time. This is because dogs with diabetes require daily insulin, well-planned, nutritious meals and regular monitoring.
So, while you might be comfortable pet sitting a healthy dog, how would you fare caring for a dog with diabetes? Honing your skills in this area may provide you with greater job opportunities. Plus, it’s peace of mind knowing you can handle insulin therapy and you know the importance of good nutrition.
Committing to caring for a dog with diabetes
It takes dedication to look after and manage a dog with diabetes. Routine is important. As is frequent monitoring and recording of details.
For example, the aim of diabetes treatment is to control the signs of diabetes. This includes low blood sugar, weight loss and excessive urination or thirst. The best way to keep on top of these things is to monitor and record.
Pet owners may call upon you, the pet sitter, to assist them with this daily duty. You might need to make a note of the following:
- What you fed the dog
- His appetite (did he finish all his dinner?)
- His general demeanour
- How much water the dog drank during the day
- The level of glucose in the dog’s urine
- At what time insulin is provided
- What dose is being administered
Careful collection and recording of this information can assist the owner in monitoring his or her dog’s progress and provide important insights into the potential risk of hypoglycaemia.
Sure, it might all sound quite straightforward. However, timing and attention to detail are really important. Plus, measuring the glucose level in urine might sound easy but it can be tricky. After all, you will need to hold a test strip out while the dog is urinating. Bearing in mind that most dogs would be a little put off having someone hold out a strip while they’re in mid-flow!
Administering insulin to a dog with diabetes
When pet sitting a dog with diabetes, it’s likely you will be required to administer daily insulin injections.
Thankfully, insulin dosing pens are designed for use by people with no medical training. As such, they are intended to be simple to use.
The other benefit of using an insulin dosing pen is that it gives a much more accurate means of administering insulin than needles and syringes, making it the recommended option. Furthermore, injections given with an insulin dosing pen are thought to be less painful for the dog.
The following instructions for using an insulin dosing pen have come from Animal Diabetes Australia fact sheets:
- It is important that the pen be kept at room temperature below 28C away from heat and light.
- Always gently mix Humulin 30/70 insulin before injection by rolling the pen 10 times and then inverting the pen 10 times.
- Mix Caninsulin by vigorously shaking the VetPen.
- Before every injection, insulin dosing pens need to be primed. This may seem wasteful to those not familiar with the protocol but it is necessary. Hold the pen vertically, attach the needle to the pen, dial 2 units (HumaPen) or 1 unit (VetPen), and push the release button. Watch carefully, if a stream of insulin appears – the pen is primed. If a stream is not seen, prime again. Priming moves the screw into contact with the cartridge plunger and removes air from the cartridge.
- Once primed, dial the dose required on the insulin pen, insert the needle under the skin, push and hold the injection button. After removing the needle from the injection site, it is normal for a drop of insulin to be seen on the needle tip.
Timing is key
When administering insulin to a dog with diabetes, timing is everything. It’s important that insulin injections are given 12-hours apart. Indeed, late administration can lead to overdose if the next injection is given on time, so timing is paramount.
It’s essential to be familiar with the signs of overdose. This includes altered behaviour, weakness, collapse and seizure. According to Animal Diabetes Australia, it is best to feed the dog a meal of its usual food if these signs are seen. Remember, consistent meals containing the same ingredients and same quantities are vital for dogs with diabetes.
If the dog refuses its meal, honey or glucose syrup can be applied liberally to the dog’s mouth. Following recovery, you can offer the dog its meal again. Animal Diabetes Australia says veterinary advice should be sought before any further insulin injections.
Care and consistency
Ultimately looking after a dog with diabetes requires ongoing care and a consistent routine. It can be very rewarding to be able to offer assistance to a pet owner whose dog has diabetes. After all, finding a reliable and trusted pet sitter can be stressful.
By being aware of the needs of dogs with diabetes and recognising the important role you can play, you can set yourself apart from other pet sitters in your area.
In addition, if any of the other dogs you sit for are on the porky side, start a conversation about pet obesity. It’s essential to educate pet owners on the fact that extra weight increases the risk of a dog developing diabetes.
You can also play a vital role in promoting the importance of regular vet check-ups, as this is the first-line defence against poor health.
Happy pet sitting!