Diabetes mellitus is a disease caused by a deficiency of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produce by a certain cell in the pancreas, and is necessary for the body tissues to use to absorb blood sugar. An analogy, is that insulin is a key that unlocks the door to each cell that allows glucose to enter the cell. All food that we eat is broken down to sugar and then fed to each cell. Without insulin, sugar remains in the blood stream and eventually passes into the urine. This causes increased urine production and thirst. Hunger is increased because the body cannot use the sugar in the blood. As diabetes progresses, chemicals called ketones accumulate, resulting in vomiting and dehydration. Eventually coma and then death occur in untreated animals. Diabetes is not a curable disease, but with proper insulin administration, the disease can be controlled. Although not the most common of dog diseases, as many as several hundred thousand dogs may be affected.
The good news is that diabetes in dogs, like the similar disease in people, is usually manageable and can have little effect on your dog’s ability to live a full and happy life. But as with many potentially serious health problems, owners must be attentive to their dog’s well-being so they can seek professional care at the earliest signs of sickness or decline, and before serious damage is done.
Diabetes can occur at any age, but is most frequently diagnosed between ages seven and nine. A rare form of diabetes can affect puppies. Breeds that have a higher incidence of diabetes include Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Dachshunds. Females are perhaps twice as likely as males to develop diabetes. Females should be spayed because the hormone levels during their heat cycle disrupt control of diabetes.
The common form of diabetes in dogs is analogous to juvenile diabetes in people. This form of diabetes can not be managed by diet alone and will require the owner to administer one to two injections of insulin a day for the rest of the dog’s life. Two to four small meals rather than one large meal to better manage the blood insulin and glucose levels and this will be coordinated with giving insulin injections..
Although the exact cause of diabetes mellitus in dogs is unknown, the excess glucose causes most of the clinical signs and long-term complications. There is great individual variation in cases of diabetes, and the dynamics and treatment requirements may change over your dog’s life span. It is important to work with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate frequently o injection, dosage, and type of insulin to use.
As stated before, if your dog’s condition is untreated, your dog may go into a coma and subsequently die. Injections of too much insulin can trigger a life-threatening emergency. This will produce a low blood sugar reaction which usually happens 3-6 hours after insulin treatment. If your pet seems weak , tired, uncoordinated or is having a seizure , call your veterinarian and do the following. Give your pet a sugar containing syrup (Karo) orally and take your pet to the veterinarian.
Injection of too little insulin inadequately controls your diabetic dog’s clinical signs. Your veterinarian will recommend an ongoing balance of properly timed insulin dosages, regular exercise, a high-quality diet, and will make you aware of other possible health threats.
If your dog is overweight, you should bring your dog’s body weight back to the normal range gradually, within two to four months. Consistency in the timing and caloric content of meals also minimizes the fluctuations in blood glucose levels, while reducing excess weight. Canned and dry kibble foods that are predominantly complex carbohydrates (and lower in calories) are key to this process. Soft, moist foods should be avoided.
If your dog’s diabetes has progressed to the point where she is seriously underweight, focus instead on a high calorie diet until the dog’s weight returns to normal.
There are occasional complications to insulin therapy, but again, they are usually quite manageable and infrequent when the dog’s diet, exercise, and insulin levels are properly managed. These side effects can include excessive urination, thirst, and hunger, as well as weight loss and lack of appetite.
One special concern is that diabetic dogs are more susceptible than healthy dogs to infections, especially urinary tract infections. The increased sugar in the urine creates an environment more hospitable to infectious agents. But with good owner attention to your dog’s overall health status, these infections usually can be detected early and treated routinely.