Diabetes in dogs is a diseased that’s caused by abnormal insulin levels. When a dog’s digestive system starts breaking down the food he eats, glucose travels into the cells through insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas. Dogs that suffer from Type I diabetes don’t produce any, or enough, of the insulin hormone; while dogs that suffer from Type II diabetes experience problems while producing insulin, or don’t respond to it.
Type I diabetes is the most commonly seen among dogs. With the body not producing insulin on its own, the dog must be given insulin therapy, which is often intensive, but is necessary for the dog to live. Type II diabetes isn’t typically seen among dogs, although it is fairly common among cats.
Obese dogs and female dogs are the most likely to experience diabetes later in life, typically when they are between the ages of 6 and 9. Juvenile diabetes, which develops during the puppy years, is most commonly seen among Golden Retrievers and Keeshonds. Although any dog can develop diabetes at any point in their life, the breeds that seem to be most at risk are: Australian Terriers, standard and miniature Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Poodles, Keeshonds and Samoyeds.
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Causes of Diabetes in Dogs
Diabetes is not known to have any one specific cause, but there are a number of factors that are known for contributing to the development of the disease.
- Autoimmune disease
- Certain medications
- Abnormal protein deposits in the pancreas
Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs
The pancreas’ lack of ability to produce insulin isn’t something that can be seen by the pet owner, but there are many indicators of diabetes that you can be on the lookout for. If your dog experiences these symptoms, especially several at the same time, speak to your vet about possible diabetes testing.
- Changes in appetite
- Increased thirst and water consumption
- Increased urination
- Weight loss
- Fruity odor to their breath
- Urinary tract infections
- Formation of cataracts, which can lead to blindness
- Skin infections, especially if they become chronic
Diagnosing Diabetes in Dogs
A number of tests will be done by the vet to diagnose diabetes including blood work and a urinalysis. Before any of that is done however, the doctor will talk to you extensively about any signs and symptoms your dog has been experiencing. They’ll also perform a physical exam to check for areas of soreness, swelling or discoloration of the skin.
Treating Diabetes in Dogs
Before the vet treats the diabetes, they will review the lab work to determine current insulin levels. Using the lab results, as well as the severity of the symptoms, your vet will determine the best treatment option for your pet. They’ll also take into consideration any other health issues that could complicate treatment.
If the dog is extremely ill upon diagnosis, they’ll likely need to remain in the hospital for a few days so that their blood sugar can be regulated. If the dog is not that sick when first diagnosed, oral medication combined with a diet high in fiber may be enough to bring the glucose levels back into balance.
Most dogs that suffer from diabetes require insulin injections to help normalize their glucose levels. These injections need to be given every day and your vet will determine the dose required according to the dog’s weight. The vet will show you how to administer these insulin shots once you and your dog are back at home, and will make sure you are both very comfortable with the process. You may also be shown how to take glucose tests at home, so you can measure and monitor your dog’s condition.
Once at home, the insulin shots need to be given every day at the same time of the day. Regular meals should also be given with this medication as the insulin levels will be at their peak when nutrients are making their way through the bloodstream, helping ensure that blood sugar levels are never too high or too low. Your vet will help you determine a feeding schedule that will work well with the time the dog’s insulin shots are given.
The vet will also help you establish a schedule for glucose tests, which are also important to help monitor the blood sugar. Also discuss a daily exercise program and proper nutrition for your pet. And while no dog should ever be receiving treats that are high in sugar, it’s especially important to keep these away from diabetic dogs.
Preventing Diabetes in Dogs
Essentially, all that really needs to be done to prevent diabetes is to keep your dog as healthy as possible. While juvenile diabetes is an inherited disease, there are many things that can be done to prevent diabetes in dogs older than a year old. Make sure that a proper diet and regular exercise are a part of your dog’s daily routine, and try to keep their weight in control as obesity is known to contribute to an abnormal response to insulin.
If you think your dog might have diabetes, make sure you get them to the vet as soon as possible. This is important to ensure that they get the proper treatment before becoming any sicker. Diabetes in dogs that is left untreated can lead to much more serious health problems including cataracts, urinary tract problems, coma, and even death. However, dogs that have diabetes but receive the necessary treatment usually live on to lead long and happy lives.