Q & A: Can dogs get diabetes and does it compare to diabetes in people?

Q. Can dogs get diabetes and does it compare to diabetes in people? How is diabetes in animals treated and what is the prognosis?

A. Yes, dogs can and do commonly get diabetes mellitus. Unlike in humans, all cases in dogs are insulin  dependent and are very unlikely to respond to oral drugs and dietary therapy alone. In humans non-insulin diabetes can be treated with oral hypoglycaemic drugs and diet, whereas dogs will all need  regular insulin injections. Diabetes is treated with insulin injections primarily, but dietary modification can lessen the requirement for insulin. It is also important to address underlying predisposing factors such as obesity. Female dogs  should be spayed as progesterone production during a bitch’s reproductive cycle can exacerbate the diabetic state.

Prognosis is fair in most cases. However, treatment is a long-term commitment and requires significant time and financial input to be successful. Also, complications can and do occur, such as cataracts and urinary tract infections. Diabetes cannot be cured in the dog but can be controlled with very rewarding results.


Dr Tim Hepplestone, Bluehills


Q. Has the way we approach dog behaviour issues changed over the last 10 years and what is the latest, most acceptable approach to canine behaviour modification? 

A. Find a behaviourist

Make sure the behaviourist you choose is qualified and uses positive training methods.

* Qualification 

Does the behaviourist have a qualification from a registered and reputable organisation?

* Methodology

What methods does the behaviourist use? Is he or she using outdated methods or the latest studies?

Coercion methods can be more detrimental than helpful to the animal.

* Consultation

Does the behaviourist want to meet you and your pet? A consultation is required for proper observation of the animal in his home. Advice should be specific to your pet, the behaviour and circumstances.

The way we approach behaviour issues in companion animals has been steadily changing over the last several decades. It is a rapidly developing field with new knowledge being produced all the time. It is well known in most fields of study that new approaches and techniques usually take about 20 years to become firmly entrenched – so it is possible that for some people, who have only relatively recently become aware of newer approaches to behaviour in dogs, it would seem like a recent change when in fact the change in thinking already started happening 20 or more years ago.

The more important changing paradigms have occurred in the way that canine dominance issues are interpreted, and in techniques of training animals, with reward-based methods gradually replacing traditional correction-based methods. More specifically with regard to behaviour modification, different approaches are being developed, for example, the French have a different way of looking at behaviour problems to the Americans, and some schools of thought focus more on the emotional basis of behaviour versus cognitive methods.

Good behaviour therapists take all of the approaches into consideration and apply what is most relevant to a particular case. Therefore, I would hesitate to name any one approach as the best approach, apart from saying that evidence-based approaches are certainly the most desirable, for example, when a particular approach or combination of approaches is applied, the therapist should be able to justify that approach with sound supporting evidence.

Dr Quixi Sonntag, University of Pretoria



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