Unfortunately, just as is the case with humans, dogs can develop diabetes. Typically, older dogs are more prone to developing the disease, but dogs of all shapes and sizes can get it as well. Luckily, there are treatment options, as well as ways you can manage your dog’s life with the disease.
Therefore, in this guide to diabetes in dogs, we’ll review everything you need to know about the disease, as a dog owner. We’ll break down the types of diabetes, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, and finally, strategies to manage diabetes if your dog develops the disease—this way, whether you ever have to deal with diabetes in dogs, you’ll have all of the information necessary to care for your dog’s health.
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Types of Diabetes in Dogs
The specifics regarding what happens when a person, or dog, has diabetes, is difficult to describe. In essence, however, when someone has diabetes, their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, which is needed for cells to be able to extract glucose (or sugar) from the blood. Therefore, with not enough insulin, cells can’t take in enough glucose, it builds up in the blood, causing unhealthy cells and glucose-laden blood, which can damage the organs around it.
Although not completely curable, diabetes is treatable, and dogs who are diagnosed with the disease can live a relatively normal and happy life.
In terms of the types of diabetes dogs can develop, there are generally two different types. Even though humans are also subject to two types of diabetes, neither of the two “accepted types” of dog diabetes match up with human diabetes exactly.
Generally, however, when a dog dog is diagnosed with diabetes, they have one of two issues.
The first option is that a diabetic dog can no longer make enough insulin, which causes the development of the disease. The second issue, on the other hand, something (the cause of which can vary) prevents the dog’s insulin from functioning properly, causing the diabetes.
This being said, typically when discussing “dog diabetes,” people are referring to sugar diabetes, as we discussed above. However, it’s worth noting that there are other kinds of diabetes, like diabetes insipidus, aka water diabetes, that dogs can develop as well.
Diabetes in Dogs: Risk Factors
Just as is the case with humans, there are certain factors that can make a dog more likely to develop diabetes. Most commonly, risk factors include:
- Breed: A study published in the Veterinary Journal in 2003 examined diabetes rates in thousands of American dogs and found that overall, mixed-breed dogs were more prone to diabetes than purebreds. Among purebreds, however, breeds varied greatly in their susceptibility.
- Age: Dogs are more likely to develop diabetes as they get older.
- Gender: Generally, female dogs and neutered male dogs are more likely than intact males to get diabetes.
- Weight: Obesity is thought to be one of the biggest risk factors for dog diabetes. Additionally, other diseases pets develop as they age, like pancreatitis, whether a result of obesity or not, are thought to make a dog more likely to develop diabetes.
- Steroids: Using medications with corticosteroids long-term is considered a risk factor for a dog developing diabetes.
Overall, however, a dog may develop diabetes at any age, regardless of their specific risk factors—so it’s important to know what to look for and contact your veterinarian if you think your dog has or is at an increased risk for diabetes.
Symptoms of Canine Diabetes
If you notice some strange behaviour from your dog, you may wonder “is my dog diabetic?” With the prevalence of diabetes in all kinds of dogs and the seriousness of the disease, it’s important to know what the symptoms of diabetes in dogs are, so you know what to keep an eye out for. Therefore, if you ever think: how do I know if my dog has diabetes? You can consult this list.
The most common symptoms of canine diabetes are:
- Increased or abnormal hunger or thirst
- Weight loss
- Frequent urination (some dogs have accidents in the house)
- Decreased appetite
- Cloudy eyes
- Chronic or recurring infections
It’s extremely important to talk to your veterinarian if you think your dog might be showing symptoms of canine diabetes. Diabetes, especially if left untreated, can increase the likelihood of your dog developing other serious illnesses.
Diabetes in Dogs: Diagnosis
As we mentioned, if you suspect your dog might be diabetic, you should make an appointment to see your veterinarian right away. Your veterinarian will be able to definitively determine if your dog does or does not have diabetes.
To diagnose diabetes in your dog, your veterinarian will probably perform a glucose test, looking for excessive sugar. Your veterinarian might perform other blood tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any other possible diseases.
Diabetes in Dogs: Treatment
After your veterinarian has confirmed your dog’s diabetes diagnosis, he or she will determine the appropriate insulin, dose, and dosing schedule. Then, your veterinarian will explain and show you how to administer insulin injections. Insulin must be given to your dog in this way, it cannot be given orally.
Once your dog has started the treatment for diabetes, you’ll want to pay close attention to him, as there is no one size fits all treatment and your veterinarian may need to adjust the schedule and dosing. Generally, however, your dog will need to receive one to two insulin shots per day.
Additionally, you may need to know how to test your dog’s glucose levels, and should be aware of any signs that indicate your dog’s glucose level is too high or too low.
Treatment for your dog’s diabetes will also include other measures in addition to insulin. You’ll need to ensure that your dog has the proper diet and gets his necessary exercise, especially if your dog is already overweight.
Strategies to Manage Diabetes in Dogs
Although administering your dog’s insulin based on your veterinarian’s instructions will be, first and foremost, the method of treatment there are additional strategies you can imply to manage your dog’s diabetes and ensure he’s in the best shape to live a long and full life.
Here are some ways you can manage diabetes in dogs:
- Feed your dog a good diet. Researchers are still exploring what is the best dog diabetes diet. Most veterinarians recommend a diet low in fat and high in fiber. Your veterinarian may recommend a prescription dog food designed for dogs with diabetes, or a homemade diet developed by a veterinary nutritionist. Some dogs may refuse to eat special diets; in that event, careful choices should be made when selecting a regular dog food.
- Make sure your dog gets adequate exercise. Exercise not only can help reduce your dog’s weight, but it also lowers blood glucose levels. Your dog should exercise every day for about the same length of time at about the same exertion level. Consistency is important—an unusually long or vigorous exercise session can cause blood glucose levels to drop dangerously low.
- If necessary, help your dog lose weight. If a dog is overweight, shedding some pounds can make the cells more sensitive to insulin, which means that glucose uptake is easier, and therefore will improve his condition with diabetes.
- Carefully monitor your dog. Although all dog owners pay special attention to their dog and keep a high concern for their well-being and health, this is even more important for dogs with diabetes. You should monitor your dog’s medications, diet, exercise, and observe how his day to day activities help or hurt his condition. If you ever think there’s a problem, contact your veterinarian.
- Bring your dog to the vet for regular checkups. This is advisable for any dog and more so if your dog has diabetes. After all, other diseases can easily develop if your dog has diabetes, such as cataracts, kidney disease, nerve disease, infections, etc. By taking your dog to the veterinarian frequently, he or she can monitor your dog’s diabetes and test or look for any other possible conditions. Once again, if you see or suspect your diabetic dog is having any kind of other health issues, contact your veterinarian immediately.
How to Prevent Diabetes in Dogs
Ideally, prevention is the best cure for diabetes. Although you may not be able to entirely prevent diabetes in dogs, there are steps you can take now and in the future to ensure your dog is in the best possible health to avoid developing this disease.
In fact, the best prevention tools are similar to the treatment options we’ve just discussed.
First, feed your dog a healthy diet. A well-balanced diet can help your dog avoid diabetes.
Second, make sure your dog gets enough exercise and don’t let him get overweight. Overweight dogs are more likely to get diabetes, so keeping your dog at a healthy weight can help prevent this and other weight-related diseases.
Third, take your dog for regular checkups. If your veterinarian suspects any issues or symptoms that could later develop into diabetes, he or she will be the best person to help guide you and provide strategies for keeping your dog in the best possible health.
Diabetes in Dogs: The Bottom Line
Although an affliction that needs to be treated and managed, a diabetes diagnosis is not the end of the road for your dog. Many dogs live normal, long lives with diabetes, just like humans do.
However, in order to put yourself in the best situation as a dog owner, you’ll want to know how to tell if your dog has diabetes, what you can to prevent the disease, and what treatment options look like if your dog is ever diagnosed.
Ultimately, we all want the best for our dogs, which means dealing with the unfortunate possibility of disease. By taking the right steps, however, you can make the most out of life with your canine companion.