A Complete Guide to Diabetes in Dogs

How to Recognize Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes in dogs is on the rise in parts of Europe and the USA. Estimates suggest an 80 percent increase over the past 15 years in some countries, with one in several hundred dogs developing the disease. 

High blood sugar resulting from diabetes can have a very detrimental impact on the body’s capability to work normally. That can lead to an increased risk of problems, including heart disease and strokes in dogs.

Read on for everything you should know about the two kinds of canine diabetes. Find out about the symptoms, potential causes, treatment and prevention options.

Types of Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes is an endocrine disorder. That means it’s one that relates to glands that secrete hormones or other products directly into the blood. 

Here are the two main types of diabetes: 

  • Type 1 affects the ability to make enough insulin for regulating blood sugar levels 
  • Type 2 affects the body’s ability to respond to normal levels of insulin

There are two kinds of diabetes in dogs as there are in people. However, they don’t match exactly with what we know about the disease in humans. 

More often than not, dogs will experience Type 1 diabetes or insulin-deficiency diabetes. This happens after the destruction of cells in the pancreas that create insulin.

Type 2 diabetes happens when other hormones in the body prevent insulin from working correctly. These hormones can be the result of excess body fat.

Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

Here are the common problems to watch for: 

  • Drinking excessively and much more than usual
  • Urinating more frequently than normal 
  • Having an excessive appetite (or the opposite – a decreased appetite)
  • Loss of weight 

Other symptoms of diabetes are less obvious. They can include:

  • Recurring infections
  • General weakness and the development of a poor coat
  • Seizures and cataracts
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Breeds With a Predisposition to Diabetes

All dogs can develop the disease. However, some types of dogs are more prone to it than others. These include:

  • Fox, Yorkshire, Tibetan and Cairn Terriers
  • Toy and Miniature Poodles
  • Siberian Huskies, Dachshunds and Pugs 
  • The Bichon Frisé and Samoyed

Age will also play a part, with dogs most commonly developing the condition aged 5 years or more.

Treating Diabetes in Dogs

It is theoretically possible to cure a dog of diabetes but it’s unlikely to happen and the disease is most often permanent. 

Cases of insulin resistance brought on by pregnancy or part of the heat cycle can occasionally disappear. This might happen if a vet spays the dog shortly after diagnosis. Even so, there’s a risk of recurrence later in life.

A dog with diabetes can still have a normal quality of life. The important thing is to treat the disease early and consistently. 

Dogs have no awareness that they have the condition and, when they get the right treatment, they won’t feel sick. In fact, they’ll still be able to do all the things they enjoy with the exception of overeating.

Insulin injections form the major part of the treatment for diabetes. These generally happen twice a day, although getting to the point when you have the dosage right can take time. 

Initially, a vet would take blood sugar samples every couple of hours. Ideally, these would be after the morning dose of insulin and finish as close to the evening dose as possible. We refer to this day-long testing as a “Blood Glucose Curve.”

Your vet may have to repeat this process every couple of weeks for several months to get the dosage right for your dog. The needles are very small, and most dogs tend to tolerate injections quite well.

As well as the injections, it’s vital that your dog’s diet, exercise and stress levels remain as consistent as possible. Major changes to any of these can dramatically affect the quantity of insulin your dog will need.

Your vet will give you a detailed plan for the timing and dose of insulin. They’ll also explain how to deal with any potential problems that might crop up. They might, for example, recommend you give the insulin injections straight after meals. This is so that you can lower the dose if the dog eats less than they normally would.

Preventing Canine Diabetes

This is not straightforward at all. That’s partly because diabetes can happen as a result of a dog’s genes. Spaying a female dog is one potential way to stop insulin-resistant diabetes brought on by a pregnancy or heat cycle.

People often link diabetes with obesity. However, in dogs, there is no proof that being excessively overweight is a direct cause. On the other hand, experts think obesity can contribute to insulin resistance and other problems. Preventing obesity, therefore, is always going to be a good thing.  

Inflammation of the pancreas, also known as pancreatitis, can put dogs at greater risk of canine diabetes. This disease can relate to a dog’s genes but it can also be due to your dog eating too much fatty food like pork or other meat products.

The best prevention is to feed your dog a healthy and balanced diet. If you are unsure about how much to feed your dog, your vet will help you to come up with a dietary plan that will prevent obesity.

Regular exercise helps to maintain optimum blood glucose levels. It is particularly important if your pet needs to lose weight. 

Getting your dog’s blood tested often will help make sure they’re maintaining the right glucose levels. You can do this at home but it’s a good idea to take your dog to the vet for a checkup every few months.

A Healthy Future Ahead

Treating a dog with diabetes takes dedication and a little bit of extra care. However, in most circumstances, there’s no reason why a dog with diabetes should not lead a long and happy life.

Do you still have any questions about diabetes in dogs? Then schedule a video consultation with one of our qualified vets! 

Have you also ever thought about pet insurance? Look here for more information.

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