To understand diabetes, you need to
understand how blood sugar levels are regulated in the body. Glucose
is a type of sugar. When a dog eats, his digestive system breaks
down many of the components of his meal into glucose, which is absorbed
into the blood stream. Rising blood glucose levels trigger the
pancreas to secrete insulin, a hormone that binds to glucose and moves
it out of the blood and into cells where it can be used as a source
of energy or converted into other substances and stored for later use.
"With proper care, many dogs with diabetes can live happily for many years."
When a pet has diabetes mellitus, his
pancreas either does not secrete enough insulin (i.e., Type One diabetes)
or his tissues cannot respond to the normal amounts of insulin that
are present (i.e., Type Two diabetes). In either case, there is
too much glucose in the blood and not enough within cells, and his body
cannot function normally.
How Did My Dog Get Diabetes?
Most dogs have what is called Type
One diabetes, which develops when the immune system attacks and destroys
the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin. The reason
why this occurs is unclear, but genetics plays a role. Type One
diabetes occurs more commonly in certain breeds, for example poodles,
schnauzers, samoyeds, spitz, keeshonds, and some types of terriers,
and has a tendency to run in families. Females are more likely
to develop diabetes than males are. Unlike most cats and many
people who develop Type Two diabetes, obesity and diet do not play much
of a role in the development of canine diabetes.
The Effects of Diabetes
Owners of diabetic dogs often notice
increased thirst and urination, weakness, and weight loss despite a
normal or even ravenous appetite. Reoccurring infections are also possible,
and dogs typically develop cataracts as the disease progresses. Left untreated, severe diabetes can cause electrolyte disturbances,
extreme dehydration, seizures and death, a condition known as diabetic
Most cases of diabetes can be diagnosed
based on a combination of clinical signs, a higher than normal blood
glucose level and the presence of glucose in the urine. Additional
lab work may be needed if the initial results are ambiguous.
In some cases, oral medications will adequately lower blood sugar levels,
but the great majority of dogs require twice daily insulin injections
and a strictly regulated diet to control their diabetes. Diabetic
regulation is usually started in the veterinary hospital so that glucose
levels can be closely monitored. If a dog is suffering from diabetic
ketoacidosis, intravenous fluids and other treatments will be necessary
to stabilize his condition. Once a dog's diabetes is under reasonable
control, he is sent home.
Committed owners are key to successfully
managing canine diabetes. Insulin injections need to be given
at approximately the same time every day, usually about 12 hours apart.
Your veterinarian will determine what type of insulin works best for
your dog. Always make sure to use proper insulin syringes when treating your dog.
A diabetic dog's diet needs to be
closely monitored. High fiber diets are ideal and are usually
prescribed by a veterinarian. Carefully measured portions should
be offered just before an insulin injection is due. Treats are
kept to a minimum and any that are given should be approved by your
veterinarian and offered at roughly the same times each day. Daily
exercise levels should also be consistent.
Regular monitoring of a diabetic dog's
blood glucose levels is very important. Owners can learn to do
this at home with a hand-held
blood glucose monitor or
bring their dogs into the veterinary clinic for the procedure.
Never increase your dog's insulin dose without first talking to your
veterinarian. If your dog is acting confused, weak, lethargic,
or "off" in any way, it is always safer to give him some food, skip
the insulin injection, and call your vet than to give insulin when he
might not need it. A low blood sugar level (i.e., too much insulin)
is much more dangerous in the short term than is a high blood sugar
level. If your dog collapses or has a seizure, rub a dissolved
sugar solution, honey, or Karo® syrup on his gums and get him to the
Managing a diabetic dog takes dedication. Most dogs require life-long treatment with petmeds, but with proper care they can
live happily for many years.
The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition.
This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not
be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of
your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.