Diabetes in dogs is the same condition seen in humans. The main difference is how we manage it. Dogs rely on their owners to monitor their blood glucose levels and administer their insulin injections.
What is diabetes in dogs?
Diabetes is a disease of the pancreas, which is a small organ located close to the stomach. A healthy pancreas produces enzymes used during digestion and produces insulin to regulate glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. Insulin also signals the body’s cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream.
Like with us, there are two types of diabetes in dogs. A dog with type one diabetes does not produce enough insulin. A dog with type 2 diabetes may produce the required amount of insulin, but their body is not able to process it properly or absorb enough to regulate glucose levels. In both cases, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, leading to hyperglycemia.
The key symptoms of canine diabetes to look for are:
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
As the body’s cells are unable to absorb glucose, they become starved of energy. To combat this perceived starvation, the body begins to break down fat and protein for energy, leading to weight loss. The brain also signals to the stomach that it needs food, hence the increase in appetite.
To try and rid the body of excess glucose, more urine is excreted. This makes the dog drink more water to replace the extra fluid they have lost.
How can I help my dog with diabetes?
There are two combined methods of managing your dog’s diabetes: insulin injections and their diet. Insulin is usually injected twice daily with food, morning and evening. Your veterinarian will advise you how many hours apart the injections need to be and in what quantity.
You will also need to feed your dog his meals at the same time each day and do not change his food or portion sizes without vet recommendation.
If your dog is experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis he may be hospitalized for several days so the nursing team can get the glucose levels under control. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a condition in which a diabetic dog’s insulin has been left unchecked and the dog stops eating and drinking.
Technology has come a long way in recent years and you are now able to purchase devices that enable you to check your dog’s blood glucose levels. The first method is to use urine dip tests which will show the level of sugars in your dog’s urine.
You can also purchase a glucometer and blood test strips. This is a quick way to test your dog’s blood sugar without having to take them to the vet surgery. You simply need to make a tiny prick on your dog’s ear using a hypodermic needle or sterile lancet. You then use the test strip to collect one drop of blood and insert the strip into the glucometer. This is enough to give an accurate reading of your dog’s blood glucose.
It is a good idea to keep a record of every reading you take and the time the test was performed. This gives your veterinarian a better idea of how your dog’s blood glucose is being managed and if any changes need to be made.
What happens if diabetes is left untreated in dogs?
Diabetes can be fatal if high glucose levels are left untreated. It can also cause blindness, nerve damage and increases the risk of bacterial infections. Although diabetes is a serious condition, it can be easily managed and a diabetic dog can expect to live a relatively normal life with very few symptoms.