Canine Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Canine Diabetes
Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

“Diabetes mellitus develops when either the body produces too little
insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or it loses the ability to respond to normal concentrations
of insulin (Type 2 diabetes).”

Canine diabetes and diabetes mellitus are one and the same. Pets and people who suffer from this disease share much in common. Many dog owners are familiar with diabetes mellitus, either because they have it themselves or know someone who does. Learning the symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention options will help you and your dog.

Overview/Snapshot of the Disease

Glucose, a type of sugar, is the basic fuel for cells within the body. After a meal, the digestive tract breaks food down into more simple substances like glucose, which then travel around the body in the bloodstream. The hormone insulin, manufactured by the pancreas, is necessary to transport glucose into cells where it can be used.

Diabetes mellitus develops when either the body produces too little insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or it loses the ability to respond to normal concentrations of insulin (Type 2 diabetes). In either case, the results are an abnormally high blood glucose level and low concentrations of the sugar within cells, which severely disrupts many bodily functions.

Type 1 diabetes, which is also called “insulin-dependent” diabetes, is by far the most common form of diabetes in dogs.

Canine Diabetes Symptoms

Typical symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Weight loss despite a good or even increased appetite
  • Recurrent infections
  • Cataracts

If diabetes is left untreated, a life-threatening condition called ketoacidosis can arise.

Causes of Canine Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes develops whenever the part of the pancreas responsible for making insulin can no longer perform this function. Most commonly this occurs after a dog’s own immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys these cells. Genetics plays a large role in determining whether or not a dog develops Type 1 diabetes.

The condition is more commonly diagnosed in certain breeds, including Poodles, Schnauzers, Samoyeds, Spitz, Keeshonds and some types of Terriers. Female dogs are twice as likely to become diabetic in comparison to males. Type 2 diabetes is usually caused by obesity but is not common in dogs.

Canine Diabetes Treatment

A veterinarian will determine whether or not a dog has diabetes based on the pet’s symptoms, a physical exam, blood work and a urinalysis. Most dogs diagnosed with the disease require twice-daily insulin injections to achieve adequate control. In rare cases, oral medications can be used successfully.

Diabetic pets also need a consistent diet and exercise regimen. Your vet will determine what type of insulin and food will work best for your pet.

Follow your veterinarian’s directions closely because varying the amount of insulin given or the amount or type of food offered can lead to disastrous consequences. If you notice your dog acting confused or lethargic, unsteady on his feet, or if he collapses or has a seizure, DO NOT give any more insulin.

If he can swallow, offer him food and call your vet. Otherwise, rub a high sugar solution (e.g., Karo® syrup) on his gums and get to the nearest animal hospital immediately.

Prevention of Canine Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented or cured, but most diabetic dogs can live happy and full lives if their owners are dedicated to close in-home monitoring and regular rechecks at the veterinary clinic. Keeping pets slim and providing proper nutrition and lots of opportunities for exercise is the best way to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Consulting Veterinarian: Jennifer Coates, DVM

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