Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body cannot use glucose normally. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body’s cells. Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, is required for the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream into all the cells in the body, including the brain. In diabetics, glucose isn’t transported into the cells and there is not enough energy for the cells to function normally. Dogs with diabetes usually require lifelong treatment with a fitness regimen and daily insulin injections. However, with careful management, they can continue to live long and healthy lives.
Diabetes in dogs can occur at any age. Most diabetic dogs are diagnosed at roughly 7-10 years of age. Diabetes is twice as common in female dogs compared to male dogs. Certain breeds of dogs may be predisposed to diabetes.
Obesity is a significant risk factor for development of diabetes. As dogs age, they may also develop other diseases that could result in diabetes or could significantly affect their response to treatment for diabetes, including over-activity of the adrenal gland in dogs (Cushings disease), pancreatitis, excess fat in the blood (hyperlipidosis), and possible long term use of certain medications.
Noticing the early signs of diabetes is the most important step in taking care of your pet. If you see any of the following signs, your pet should be examined by a veterinarian. The earlier the diagnosis, the better chance your pet may have for a longer and healthier life.
- Excessive water drinking and increased urination
- Weight loss, even though there may be an increased appetite
- Decreased appetite
- Cloudy eyes-cataracts
- Chronic or recurring infections (including skin infections and urinary infections)
The diagnosis is confirmed by your veterinarian by finding consistently high sugar levels in your pet’s blood and urine. Although a diagnosis of diabetes is often relatively straightforward, your veterinarian may run additional blood tests to rule out other medical conditions seen in older pets. For example, a urine culture might be recommended to rule out a urinary tract infection or a test for Cushings disease as a possible cause of not regulating glucose well.
Most pets’ diabetes can be managed without complications, but for some dogs the situation may be more challenging. It is not a one-size- fits-all treatment and your veterinarian may need to periodically check your pet’s blood glucose level and adjust the treatment regimen. Your veterinarian will make an individual treatment and management plan for your dog based on the dog’s current disease status. Keeping a daily and weekly chart of your dog’s diet, glucose test results, daily insulin dose, and weekly body weight may help you become aware of when your dog deviates from it’s regular pattern.
Diabetes in dogs is treated with twice daily injections of insulin and a strict twice a day diet determined with the help of your veterinarian. Oral diabetic drugs do not work in dogs. The insulin is adjusted to the amount of food so the amount and type of food must be determined and must be very consistent. Daily food intake cannot vary.
Initially, frequent testing is essential to determine the correct dose of insulin. Too much insulin will cause low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) resulting in listlessness, confusion, weakness and possibly seizures. Over the short term, low blood glucose is more serious than high glucose levels.
The initial diagnosis can be overwhelming. The first few months are the most critical to get the diabetes regulated. However, with proper treatment, dogs with diabetes have survival rates very similar to those of non-diabetic dogs of the same age and gender. Established in 1981, Palm City Animal Medical Center is dedicated to providing the best possible care for your pets. With focuses on compassionate care in surgery, physical therapy and rehabilitation, preventative medicine, extensive diagnostics, and emergency service, Palm City Animal Medical Center combines exceptional medical care with a caring philosophy for pets and their owners. For more information, call 772-283-0920, visit www.palmcityanimalmedicalcenter.com or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PalmCityAnimalClinic.