Diabetes in dogs can affect various animals, including dogs, cats, and other animals, as well as apes, pigs, and horses. Diabetes can also be found in humans. It’s chronic and can’t be cured, but it can be handled with success. “Sugar diabetes” is most commonly found in dogs. It is a metabolism disorder which means it affects how the body converts food to energy.
What is Diabetes
When your dog has diabetes, it means that its glucose-insulin connection isn’t working as it should be. Diabetes can occur in dogs in two forms:
- Insulin-deficiency diabetes: This means that your dog’s body is unable to produce enough insulin. When the pancreas has been damaged or isn’t working, this occurs. If your dog has this type of diabetes, it’ll require daily shots to replace its missing insulin. This type of diabetes is the most common in dogs.
- Insulin-resistant diabetes: This occurs when your dog’s body is producing insulin, but its body isn’t utilizing it as it should. This means that the glucose isn’t being pulled out of the blood and into the cells, as if the cells aren’t responding to the “message” that the insulin is sending. This type of diabetes often occurs in older dogs.
It is common for female dogs to develop temporary insulin resistance whilst in heat or pregnant.
The Connection Between Glucose and Insulin
When food nutrients are converted into energy used to power the body’s cells, it involves an ongoing interplay of two aspects:
- Glucose: This is essential for fuel for the cells in the body. The food that has been digested has its nutrients broken down into glucose. Glucose is a type of sugar that is a vital source of energy for many cells and organs. The intestines absorb the glucose into the bloodstream, which then transports the glucose throughout the whole body.
- Insulin: Insulin is in charge of fuel delivery. The pancreas is an important organ next to the stomach that releases the hormone insulin into your dog’s body. The insulin will act as a “gatekeeper,” telling cells to grab glucose and other nutrients out of the bloodstream to be used as fuel.
The Symptoms of Diabetes in a Dog
There are early signs and symptoms of diabetes in a dog. These symptoms are often easily noticed by the owner.
- Excessive thirst: Your dog might drink a larger amount than usual and leave you with an empty water bowl more often.
- Increased Urination: Your dog could need to go outside more often or even begin having accidents in the house. The increased urination and excessive thirst are caused by the body trying to rid itself of excess sugar which will then be sending through to your dog’s urine.
- Weight Loss: Although your dog is eating regular portions, it might begin to lose weight. This is because your dog is unable to efficiently convert nutrients from its food.
- Increased appetite: Your dog might be hungry most of the time because the cells in his body aren’t getting all the glucose it needs. This could happen despite your dog eating a normal amount.
In advanced cases of diabetes, the symptoms could become more pronounced. The advanced symptoms of diabetes in dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Depressed attitude
Diabetes causes major threats to your dog’s health. When diabetes is uncontrolled, it can cause major damage to your dog’s body. This makes early detection and proper treatment crucial. The effects of diabetes on your dog’s health can include:
- Cataracts that lead to blindness
- Enlarged liver
- Urinary tract infections
- Kidney failure
- Ketoacidosis – This is an acute, potentially life-threatening condition that is often accompanied by rapid breathing, dehydration, lethargy, vomiting, and sweet smelling breath. Various factors can include stress, surgery, fasting, and infection, as well as an underlying health condition that has been combined with low insulin levels.
If you’re the owner of a diabetic dog, it’s important to always have ketone testing sticks on hand in order to test your dog’s urine if they begin displaying any of the above-mentioned symptoms. An emergency vet should be contacted immediately if your dog’s urine tests positive for ketones.
Getting a Diagnosis
There are simple tests available that can be done by your vet to check for diabetes, including testing for excessive glucose in your dog’s blood and urine. Blood tests are able to show other indications of diabetes, such as higher than normal liver enzymes or electrolyte imbalances. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the better, as it gives your pet the opportunity to live a normal life.
How can your Dog Become at Risk for Diabetes?
There are various reasons your dog could become at risk for diabetes. We have taken the time to list these reasons below:
- Age: Diabetes isn’t age specific and can occur at any age in dogs. It has, however, been noted that diabetes is often found in dogs that are middle-aged to senior. Most dogs are 5 and older when they develop diabetes and receive a diagnosis.
- Sex: Research shows that unspayed female dogs are twice as likely to get diabetes as male dogs.
- Chronic or repeated pancreatitis: The inflammation in the pancreas caused by this condition could cause extensive and irreparable damage to the pancreas, resulting in diabetes.
- Obesity: One of the leading contributors to insulin resistance is obesity. This is a risk factor for pancreatitis that leads to diabetes.
- Steroid Medications: When used long-term, steroid medications can cause diabetes.
- Cushing’s Disease: When Cushing’s disease is diagnosed, it means that the body internally overproduces steroids, which can lead to diabetes.
- Genetics: Diabetes is not breed-specific. Genetics, as we know, do play a role in either increased or reduced risk. Mixed breeds and purebreds carry the same risk of diabetes.
The Treatment of Diabetes in Dogs
Treating diabetes in your dog consists of three important factors. Following your vet’s advice will ensure that your dog lives a happy and full life.
- Diet: You might be required to change your dog’s diet to help treat diabetes. They will likely recommend a diet that will suit your dog’s needs best. These diets will often include good quality protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates in order to help slow the absorption of glucose. A diet with a relevantly low-fat content might be on the recommended list as well.
- Exercise: Regular exercise will help prevent the sudden spike or drop in glucose levels. It is imperative that diabetic dogs maintain an exercise routine that is moderate yet consistent.
- Injections: Your diabetic dog might require daily shots of insulin under his skin. This is something that you, as the owner, will need to learn to do. It might sound like a difficult task, but it is easier than it sounds. It will very soon become part of your daily routine that won’t be traumatizing to you or your dog.
Diabetes in Dogs in a Nutshell
Diabetes in dogs can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early. In cases where diabetes has been diagnosed and treated early, the dog has the opportunity to live a happy and full life. Pay close attention to any symptoms your dog might show. If any symptoms do occur, take your dog to the vet immediately.