If you thought that diabetes was restricted to humans you are wrong. Diabetes can also affect your dog. As in the human form, diabetes in dogs is due to an absolute or relative deficiency in the production of insulin and can be Type-1 or Type-11. The most common in dogs is Type-1. It occurs most commonly in middle aged female dogs and affects one dog in every 400. A frightening statistic!
The most common breeds to contract diabetes are cairn terriers, poodles, dachshunds, miniature schnauzers and beagles and most affected dogs are usually overweight.
Dogs suspected of having diabetes will present to their veterinarian with a history of drinking huge quantities of water, passing lots of urine and, despite having a ravenous appetite are losing weight.
As the disease progresses, the dog may become depressed, lethargic, stop eating and begin to vomit, or even develop cataracts. In severe cases the dog may even collapse or begin to have fits.
Diabetes in dogs is usually caused by infections, immune mediated diseases, pancreatitis, hyperadrenocorticism or by taking some medications such as cortisone.
If your veterinarian suspects your dog is affected he will carry out blood and urine tests to confirm the disease. These tests will confirm if your dog has a very high blood glucose level along with changes to liver and kidney function and, in severe cases, may also reveal ketones (acid by products). Quite often the blood is very fatty (lipaemic) and there maybe changes to electrolytes.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, diabetic dogs are usually admitted to hospital until they are stabilised. The dogs will be given insulin injections, then their blood glucose levels are monitored during the day to assess their response to treatment. It is critical that the dog be given insulin injections morning and night and that they adhere to a strictly calorie controlled diet. Dry foods are preferable to soft moist foods as they make it easier to stabilise the dog. Overweight patients are usually put on a diet to slowly lose weight. It is critical that the dog has free access to water.
Most diabetic dogs are fed a prescription diet available from your veterinarian. They are usually high in fibre, which reduces the GI factor and helps control body weight. These diets also permit careful control of the dog’s calorie intake.
Patients with ketosis or pancreatitis will be placed on intravenous fluids as well as other medications. These conditions are life threatening and must be vigorously and intensively treated. They will require repeated blood testing until they are stable.
Once your veterinarian is confident that your dog is stable, it will be discharged from hospital with instructions for you to follow. You must strictly adhere to the recommended diet and administer the dose of insulin carefully. And remember, no snacks! The dog should be checked regularly in the initial phases of treatment to ensure its blood glucose level is in the correct range. Once your veterinarian is satisfied that your dog’s condition is stable the checks can be carried out every second month.
Diabetic dogs can expect to live a long and fulfilling life, provided there are no additional complications such as pancreatitis or hyperadrenocorticism. These patients are much more complicated to treat and their condition will require closer monitoring by your veterinarian.
The thought of giving your dog insulin injections may be daunting but it is surprisingly easy to do. Managing a diabetic dog can be a very rewarding experience and most people become even more “in tune” with their dog and how it is feeling when they take over the management of their diabetic dog. Like people, once the dog is stabilised it will become more active and will start doing all the things it did prior to developing diabetes.
In terms of prevention, consider desexing intact females, avoid medications such as cortisone and keep your dog in good trim. If it starts showing any of the warning signs listed above, please have it checked out immediately.
Diabetes is a serious disease which is potentially life threatening if not treated but, with the proper diagnosis, care and management your dog should remain your faithful companion for many years.