Diabetes In Dogs

Diabetes is a common hormonal condition in dogs. Most diabetic dogs are diagnosed between the ages of 7 and 10 but it has been seen in dogs as young as 18 months.

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Although diabetes can affect both male and female dogs, 70% of dogs with diabetes are female. Some of the breeds that are more prone to developing diabetes are Miniature Schnauzers, Toy Poodles, Dachshunds, Cairn Terriers, Bichon Frise and Retrievers.

What Causes Diabetes In Dogs?

Diabetes is causes by dogs not producing any or enough Insulin or not responding to it properly. This then leads to high levels of Glucose (sugar) in your dog’s blood.

A bit of technical stuff as why insulin is important for your dog:

When your dog eats, the food is digested and converted into glucose. Glucose is a source of energy for all the cells in your dog’s body. When the level of glucose rises in the blood stream after a meal the pancreas produces insulin, which is a hormone that will then mean the glucose can enter the cells and be used as energy. If there is not enough insulin or the body does not respond well to it, the glucose stays in the blood. The level of glucose can then become dangerously high, which will result in the signs seen in Diabetes.

Signs Of Diabetes In Dogs

  • Increase thirst and appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss despite a good appetite
  • Lethargy / weakness / collapse
  • Vomiting
  • Risk of urine infections (due to glucose being present in the urine which is then a source of energy for bacteria)
  • Higher susceptibility to infections
  • Poor coat quality
  • Cloudy eyes

How Is Diabetes Diagnosed?

Diabetes is very easy to diagnose and a lot of the time vets are suspicious of diabetes just from the signs and symptoms that you may report in a consultation, along with a full health check.

Diagnosis is then confirmed by finding sugar in a urine sample and an abnormally high blood sugar level. We may also advise running additional tests to ensure your dog is not suffering from any other diseases or infections i.e. urinary tract infections

Treating & Managing Diabetes In Your Dog

There are several components to treating your dog with diabetes and it does require a lot of commitment. This can sometimes be overwhelming, not only coming to terms with the fact that your pet has been diagnosed with a condition that cannot be cured, but that you will have to give them Insulin injections.

  • Insulin therapy – depending on how unwell your dog is, the initial treatment for diabetes may involve them being hospitalised. Once stable treatment can be carried on at home in the form of twice daily injections under the skin (usually done in the scruff of their neck). The needles that are used are very small and are usually well accepted by dogs. We advise that you always feed your dog before giving them their injections to ensure that their blood sugar level does not go too low if they don’t eat. Your vet will calculate the initial dose of insulin that they will require and the aim is to reduce the level of blood glucose and thus reduce the symptoms associated with diabetes i.e. the increased thirst and urination. The dose of insulin may need to be altered depending on their response to the treatment.
  • Regular exercise – this is to ensure that they have the same glucose requirement each day, excessive exercise may lead to low blood glucose levels.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Regular feeding times and amounts – it is important to feed the same amount of food each day to ensure that they will need the same amount of insulin each day and avoid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Your vet may recommend you change your dogs food to a diabetic specific diet.
  • Spay – if you have a female dog that is entire and has been diagnosed with diabetes, the female hormone progesterone can interfere with the way insulin works.

We offer diabetic clinics with our nurses who will be able to give you lots of tips in how to give the injections and lots of other advice about coping with diabetic dogs.

How Is Diabetes Monitored In Dogs?

Initially regular trips to the vets and blood tests are required to ensure that your dog is on the correct dose of insulin. It is helpful to keep a diary to tell us the times of injections, how they are eating and drinking and generally how they are behaving. Over time these visits will be reduce as it is hoped that your dog will only need their insulin dose adjusting occasionally.

Sometimes we might admit your dog for a day to do a ‘glucose curve’. This looks at serial glucose levels throughout the day so we can assess how they are responding to their insulin dose. Continuous glucose monitors are also available and these may be an option for your dog to have to enable the glucose to be monitored at home for 24hrs.

What Will I See If My Dog’s Sugar Level Goes Too Low?

If your dog’s glucose level goes too low this too can cause problem.

Signs you might see include:

  • Shaking
  • Seizures or they could even go into a coma
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of coordination or balance

What Treats Can I Give My Diabetic Dog?

There are specific diabetic treats available that you can give to your dog, which are usually higher in fibre and protein. It is important that treats are taken into consideration with your dog’s regular diet and are not given too frequently to ensure blood glucose levels do not fluctuate.

Can A Dog Recover From Diabetes?

It is not possible to cure dogs from diabetes, but they are able to be managed and can lead a happy and otherwise healthy life.

How Long Do Dogs Live After Being Diagnosed With Diabetes?

If their diabetes is well managed many dogs can live a long and happy life but it does rely on a lot of commitment from owners. Unfortunately there are some dogs that do not respond well to the treatment, develop complications or have other diseases that makes management difficult.

What Do I Do If My Dog Does Not Eat Or I Miss An Injection?

If you miss an injection or are unsure if your dog has had the full dose, we would normally advise you just give the correct dose of insulin at the next scheduled time.

If your dog does not eat or you are worried that you might have given too much insulin we advise you phone your vets for advice.

How Do I Store My Dog’s Insulin?

The insulin should usually be stored upright in your fridge. If the insulin is left at room temperature or frozen it is unlikely to work as well. If you are using an insulin VetPen r, the cartridges, once in the VetPen r, can be stored at room temperature but protected from light

What Happens If My Dog’s Diabetes Is Left Untreated?

Unfortunately if diabetes is left untreated it will ultimately be life threatening. This is usually due to development of a condition called Ketoacidosis, this I where the body breaks down its own fat and proteins to provide energy this produces ketones making the blood to acidic and can cause severe clinical signs.

How Can Diabetes In Dogs Be Prevented?

Diabetes in cannot be prevented in dogs, but we always advise that you keep your dogs active and at an ideal weight to keep them as healthy as possible.

Are There Any Complications That Can Arise If My Dog Has Diabetes?

  • Cataracts – a high blood glucose level will lead to an increase in glucose within the eye, which can lead to the formation of cataracts. These give a cloudy appearance to the eye and lead to a loss of vision. In some cases surgery is available for cataracts but this does come with the risk of an anaesthetic.
  • Pancreatitis – diabetic dogs can develop pancreatitis. This can cause inappetence and vomiting thus affecting the control of their diabetes.
  • Increased bacterial infections – because of the high level of glucose present this provides a better environment for bacteria. Diabetic dogs are especially more prone to urinary tract infections due to glucose being present in their urine.
  • Ketoacidosis – this is a condition that occurs if diabetes is left untreated and is a result of a dangerously high level of blood glucose. This can produce severe clinical signs and often needs aggressive treatment.
  • Hypoglycaemia – this is when the blood glucose level falls too low and can be either due to over dosing or incorrect dose of insulin or insulin being given if your dog has not eaten.

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