Do diabetic dogs have feet problems?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Close up of a Old English Sheepdog's paw pads on day two of CRUFTS Dog Show at NEC Arena on March 10, 2023 in Birmingham, England. Billed as the greatest dog show in the world, the Kennel Club event sees dogs from across the globe competing for Best in Show. (Photo by Katja Ogrin/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Close up of a Old English Sheepdog's paw pads on day two of CRUFTS Dog Show at NEC Arena on March 10, 2023 in Birmingham, England. Billed as the greatest dog show in the world, the Kennel Club event sees dogs from across the globe competing for Best in Show. (Photo by Katja Ogrin/Getty Images) /

As the human in charge of your dog’s well-being, you’re likely always looking for ways to support their health. It’s especially important to prioritize their needs when they live with a chronic condition like diabetes. Could diabetic dogs develop feet problems? Here’s what you need to know if you think your dog is experiencing this potential symptom.

Do Diabetic Dogs Experience Feet Problems?

Experts estimate 1% of dogs could develop diabetes at some point. It may happen due to their genetics or their current lifestyle. When canine diabetes occurs, it means your dog can’t process glucose effectively. The sugar passes through their digestive tract instead of getting absorbed by cells, ultimately decreasing the energy reserved for bodily functions.

If a dog’s heart can’t pump blood effectively because it doesn’t have enough energy, their body will conserve it for their primary organs. It’s an issue that directly affects the feet and limbs of people and animals with the condition.

Symptoms Your Dog Could Experience

Long-term blood flow issues in a dog’s limbs could result in diabetic neuropathy — a condition that causes nervous system damage in humans and animals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. These are the primary symptoms your dog may exhibit if they have it.

1. Loss of Paw Sensation

Try tickling the hair between your dog’s front or back paw pads. It typically elicits an automatic leg jerk because the sensation is ticklish for dogs. If your dog never responds to the gentle touch, it could indicate they have little to no feeling in their paws. It shows limited blood flow to the area and damaged nerves.

2. Weakness or Discomfort When Walking

Imagine kneeling until you couldn’t feel your feet. If you tried to walk, your gait would look different because your feet lacked blood flow. Diabetic dogs with feet problems may exhibit the same thing. Their feet and legs could feel weaker or uncomfortable when they try to walk due to their nervous system lacking blood flow.

Consider your environment when this occurs as well. Disorientation is a sign of heat stroke, which might be more likely if you’re walking on a scorching day. They may also have burns on their paw pads if they walk on the summer pavement.

3. Licking or Chewing on Their Feet

Dogs sometimes chew their toenails or clean their feet with their tongues, but it doesn’t happen all the time. Dogs who are consistently chewing or licking their feet could be trying to increase their circulation. Note how frequently it happens and how long it continues to determine if this activity is cause for concern.

Ways to Manage a Diabetic Dog’s Diet

If your dog receives a diabetes diagnosis, there are many ways to manage their condition. Talk with your veterinarian about making these positive dietary changes to improve your pup’s circulation, cellular energy and blood sugar levels.

1. Introduce High-Fiber Food

Soluble fiber attracts water to the digestive system. It makes meals feel more filling and prevents blood sugar spikes by slowing the digestion process. Dry and wet dog food designed for diabetic pups will feature more of this fiber than standard kibble. Your vet may also recommend a prescription food if your dog needs more specialized help managing their diabetes.

2. Avoid Giving Table-Scrap Treats

You might love the savory ham and cheese soup you made for dinner and want to share it with your furry best friend. It’s tempting when your pup gives you big pleading eyes, but diabetic dogs should stick with pet-friendly foods.

Sugar is in many human foods like sauces, dips and processed meals. Your one-time treat could accidentally cause a blood sugar spike that worsens your dog’s feet problems.

Instead, look for dog food brands that make healthy treats packed with soluble fiber. Carrot treats from Scout & Zoe would fill this delicious dietary niche in your pup’s life. The brand makes USDA-inspected pet treats with human-grade ingredients. Your dog will get whole foods in every yummy bite, plus exciting extra options like gluten-free venison treats or kangaroo jerky.

3. Schedule Their Meals

You already schedule your day around pet-friendly jogging sessions or how often your dog needs to relieve themselves outside. Their meals will also play a role in your daily routine if they have diabetes.

Diabetes symptoms worsen when your dog’s blood sugar is too low or too high. It’s easier to stabilize their blood sugar when they eat scheduled meals. Follow your veterinarian’s advice to feed your dog two or three times each day. If the meals are always on time, their digestive system will follow the routine, and experience fewer blood sugar highs or lows.

When to Visit Your Veterinarian

Every pet parent experiences situations where they decide to wait out a strange symptom their dog exhibits. If your pup is older, overweight or at genetic risk of developing diabetes, it’s better to make a vet appointment sooner rather than later. Symptoms like these could indicate an undiagnosed condition:

  • Excessive drinking from their water bowl
  • Less of an appetite
  • An unusual or uncomfortable gait
  • Constant licking at their feet
  • Recurring skin infections

If you can’t afford to visit the vet or don’t have time, call or write an email. Describing what you’re seeing and mentioning how long the symptoms have been present will help the vet decide if it’s something they should check out in person.

Learn More About Canine Diabetes

Diabetic dogs can have feet problems that indicate a more serious underlying condition. Talk with your vet if you notice these symptoms in your dog’s life. They may recommend medications along with dietary changes to make your pup more comfortable as they manage their chronic condition.

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