Diabetic Dogs Symptoms
Today, diabetes takes more lives than AIDS and breast cancer combined. Worldwide, it afflicts more than 380 million people. And the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, that number of people living with diabetes will more than double. And yes, the growing diabetes epidemic is not limited to people—diabetes mellitus is increasing among dogs as well. Researchers estimate that one in 200 dogs will develop the disease.
Diabetes in dogs is a complex disease caused by either a lack of the hormone insulin or an inadequate response to insulin.
After a dog eats, his digestive system breaks food into various components, including glucose which is carried into his cells by insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas. Insulin serves as a “key” to open cells, to allow the glucose to enter and allow dogs to use the glucose for energy. But with diabetes, this system does not work. When a dog does not produce insulin or cannot utilize it normally, his blood sugar levels elevate. The result is hyperglycemia, which, if left untreated, can cause many complicated health problems for a dog.
There are two major forms of diabetes in the dog: 1) uncomplicated diabetes and 2) diabetes with ketoacidosis. Dogs with uncomplicated diabetes may have the signs but are not extremely ill. Diabetic dogs with ketoacidosis are very ill and may be vomiting and depressed.
It is important to understand, however, that diabetes is considered a manageable disorder and many diabetic dogs can lead happy, healthy lives.
The following symptoms should be investigated as they could be indicators that your dog has diabetes:
- Change in appetite
- Excessive thirst/increase in water consumption
- Weight loss
- Increased urination
- Unusually sweet-smelling or fruity breath
- Urinary tract infections
- Cataract formation, blindness
- Chronic skin infections
In order to properly diagnose diabetes, your veterinarian will collect information about your dog’s clinical signs, perform a physical examination and check blood work and a urinalysis.
Diabetes treatment is based on how severe the symptoms and lab work are and whether there are any other health issues that could complicate therapy. Each dog will respond a little bit differently to treatment, and therapy must be tailored to the individual dog throughout his life.
Some dogs may be seriously ill when first diagnosed and will require intensive hospital care for several days to regulate their blood sugar.
Dogs who are more stable when first diagnosed may respond to oral medication or a high-fiber diet that helps to normalize glucose levels in the blood.
For most dogs, insulin injections are necessary for adequate regulation of blood glucose. Once your pet’s individual insulin treatment is established, typically based on weight, you’ll be shown how to give him insulin injections at home.
Spaying your dog is recommended, as female sex hormones can have an effect on blood sugar levels.
What Should I Know About Treating My Diabetic Dog at Home?
As your veterinarian will explain, it’s important to always give your dog insulin at the same time every day and feed him regular meals in conjunction with his medication. This allows increased nutrients in the blood to coincide with peak insulin levels and will lessen the chance that his sugar levels will swing either too high or too low. You can work with your vet to create a feeding schedule around your pet’s medication time. It is also important to avoid feeding your diabetic dog treats that are high in glucose. Regular blood glucose checks are a critical part of monitoring and treating any diabetic patient, and your veterinarian will help you set up a schedule for checking your dog’s blood sugar.
Please also consult your vet about a consistent, daily exercise program and proper nutrition for your dog to help keep his weight in check.