Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs

Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs

If your dog has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you can rest assured that there are ways to successfully manage their condition, allowing your dog to live a full and comfortable life.

Today we’ll look into exactly what causes diabetes in dogs, common symptoms to watch out for, and ways your dog can be treated.

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that causes permanent loss of beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.

Normally, after eating, the pancreas secretes insulin to help the body’s cells take up glucose from the bloodstream and convert it to energy. With diabetes mellitus, the pancreas cannot secrete enough insulin, or the cells have become resistant to insulin, making your dog hyperglycaemic. This means he or she will have a high blood sugar level that cannot controlled on its own.

Diabetes in dogs is almost exclusively Type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) and cannot be treated purely with diet or oral drugs. Therefore, your dog will be absolutely dependent on regular injections of insulin to maintain their blood glucose levels.

Why Does It Occur?

The cause of diabetes in dogs can be from a number of different factors, including:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Infection
  • Drugs
  • Obesity
  • Immune-mediated disease
  • Pancreatitis

Symptoms that Indicate Diabetes

Some common clinical signs that your dog may be diabetic include:

  • Increased thirst (polydipsia)
  • Increased urination (polyuria)
  • Increased appetite (polyphagia)
  • Weight loss
  • Eye cataracts
  • Urinary tract infection

If you notice your dog exhibiting any of these symptoms be sure to seek advice from a qualified veterinarian.

How is Diabetes Mellitus Diagnosed?

Diabetes in dogs is usually diagnosed between the ages of 4 and 14 years, with most dogs diagnosed between 7 and 9 years of age. Female dogs are affected approximately twice as often as males, and certain breeds are also more susceptible, such as Australian Terriers, Schnauzers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Dachshunds, Poodles and Pugs.

Your veterinarian will diagnose your dog from a combination of his or her history, clinical signs and the results of a blood test and urine test. Diabetic dogs will show high levels of glucose in their blood and urine. There should never be glucose in your dog’s urine.

Your veterinarian may also check the fructosamine level in your dog’s blood test results, to look at the average blood glucose level over the last three weeks. The results of the urine test will be examined for bacteria growing in the urine, which will be treated by antibiotics if a urinary tract infection is present. An abdominal ultrasound will be performed to rule out concurrent pancreatitis.

Once your vet has carried out these tests they will be able to make a clear diagnosis.

How Do We Treat Diabetes Mellitus?

If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus the primary goal of treatment will be to remove the clinical symptoms mentioned above.

This can be successfully achieved through insulin injections, diet, exercise, prevention or control of other diseases that antagonise insulin, and discontinuation of any medications that cause insulin resistance. It is also important to guard against the development of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) that can lead to seizures and coma.

If your vet determines that your dog is a “well” diabetic, with no complicating disease requiring hospitalisation, your dog can return home with a treatment plan of regular insulin. This insulin will be in the form of an injection called Caninsulin, which can be administered by you at home, every 12 hours at the same time every day.

Your veterinarian will advise you of the exact dosage amount for your dog, and provide you with advice on how to easily and safely carry out the injections.

How Else Can I Help My Dog with Diabetes Mellitus?

There are other things you can do to make sure your dog’s treatment is successful. Here are some quick tips to follow:

  • Always give your dog their injection with or directly after food
  • Make sure you stick to your plan of giving injections 12 hours apart
  • Keep insulin in the fridge and away from light
  • Administer insulin injections under the skin, as shown by your vet
  • Keep a regular high fibre diet for your dog
  • Exercise your dog around the same time every day

 As you can see, routine is very important for diabetic dogs. Sticking to a good routine and making sure you keep to your vet’s treatment plan will ensure your dog continues to live a long and happy life, with their diabetes successfully managed.

Remember, if you do notice any of the signs of diabetes in your dog book an appointment with a qualified veterinarian immediately for professional advice and guidance.