We do our best to provide adequate care, proper nutrition, exercise, toys, and companionship to our furry friends. But despite their humans' best efforts, dogs sometimes fall prey to diabetes.
What is canine diabetes?
When dogs eat, food is broken down and used by the body. Some nutrients are broken down into glucose, a fuel used by organs and other cells within the body. Glucose is absorbed through the intestines into the blood.
In a healthy dog, the pancreas releases insulin into the body. Insulin assists cells in grabbing the glucose from the blood to use as food. But in a diabetic dog, there is a breakdown in the glucose-insulin connection. This can occur either because the dog's body isn't using the insulin effectively (insulin-resistance diabetes), or because the dog isn't producing enough insulin (insulin-deficiency diabetes). Insulin-deficiency diabetes is the more common form of diabetes in dogs.
What are the symptoms?
As with any serious illness, the sooner it is recognized and treated, the better the prognosis for your dog. Early warning signs include excessive thirst, weight loss even though your dog is eating as much (or more) and her exercise routine hasn't changed, increased urination (both frequency and amount), and an increased appetite. If you notice any or all of these symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet.
More advanced symptoms include a loss of appetite, vomiting, depression, and a lack of energy.
What are some risk factors?
Diabetes can strike any dog at any point in her life. Dogs more at risk are unspayed females, middle-age to senior dogs, dogs with Cushing's disease or chronic pancreatitis, those on steroids, and obese dogs. Genetics may play a role as well.
Diagnosis and treatment.
Your vet can do blood tests for excess sugar in the blood, electrolyte imbalances, and high liver enzymes. The vet might also test for excess sugar in the urine.
The good news is that diabetic dogs can live full, long lives, especially if the disease is caught early on. Treatment can include changes to your dog's diet and exercise routine. You also will likely have to monitor your dog's blood sugar.
You will probably have to give your dog an injection of insulin once or twice a day. These under-the-skin injections are not that difficult to give, and your vet can show you how. You and your dog will quickly get used to the injections as part of your daily routine.
It can take some time to get the proper combination of insulin dosage, diet, and exercise for your dog's proper care regimen. But once you work that out, with routine monitoring on your part and regular vet visits, your dog should be able to live a full and happy life.
Untreated diabetes can lead to multiple health issues for your dog including urinary tract infections, an enlarged liver, seizures, cataracts which can lead to blindness, ketoacidosis, or kidney failure.
A diagnosis of diabetes means you'll have to give your dog a little extra medical care. But all the happy, fun, and loving times you will have throughout your furry friend's life make the extra care worthwhile.
Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.