November is National Pet Diabetes Month. Help spread awareness of this growing dog disease.
Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, can sneak up on dog owners. The signs are often subtle, and when not recognized, can result in life-threatening complications. The high levels of glucose in the blood stream can cause some significant changes in the body’s metabolism and health, resulting in symptoms that dog owners should be able to recognize to prevent progression of the disease.
Be aware of any change in your dog’s urination, water intake and body weight, so you can detect possible early signs of diabetes. If you are concerned, collect a small amount of urine and check it for glucose, then take your dog to your veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis.
What is diabetes
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin.
Any dog is susceptible to diabetes, although it is typically a disease of middle to older age dogs. The portion of the pancreas that produces insulin shuts down, and stops producing insulin, which allows glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream to enter cells where it can provide calories and energy for cell function.
When cells can’t take in glucose, it remains in the blood, causing hyperglycemia, better known as high blood sugar.
Hyperglycermia (high blood sugar) in dogs
The sugar in the blood spills over into the urine, causing the dog to urinate frequently and in large volume. This frequent urination leads to dehydration, which the dog tries to compensate for by drinking large amounts of water, causing more urination. It’s a vicious cycle. Most dog owners first notice this cycle when their dog’s housetraining manners begin to regress. Compounding the problem is that the dog doesn’t metabolize enough sugar so he develops a ravenous appetite.
Dogs with hypoglycemia may appear confused, tired, or shaky. Sometimes they collapse or have seizures. To treat hypoglycemia, give your dog corn syrup or honey. If there’s no improvement within half an hour, take the dog to the veterinarian. If the dog is unconscious, rub the syrup or honey on the gums so it will be absorbed through the tissues, and take the dog to the veterinarian for further treatment.
Excerpt from the book,The Original Dog Bible
Symptoms of diabetes in dogs
The three most obvious signs are increased water intake, increased urination and weight loss. All three make sense when looked at in the context of what is happening in the body.
The high levels of glucose in the blood stream cause water in the body to stay in the blood stream with the glucose, due to its concentration. This high volume of fluid results in excess urination, and loss of valuable calories, in the form of glucose, that are never absorbed. To make up for the lost fluid, there is an increased thirst response. Also, due to the glucose in the urine, bladder infections are common, because bacteria thrive in glucose.
If the condition continues untreated, appetite decreases, the dog becomes malnourished, and loses weight.
Without recognition and treatment, the diabetes will progress to a much more serious form known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is a life-threatening alteration to the body’s normal metabolism that results in severely acidic blood and eventual neurologic signs to do brain damage.
Diagnosing dog diabetes
There is a simple at-home test that astute dog owners can perform to check their dog for early signs of diabetes. A urine dip stick, available at any pharmacy, can be dipped into a sample of collected urine (it does not need to be sterile); if there is a color change to the strip that indicates the presence of glucose, it is possible your dog has diabetes.
The definitive diagnosis should be made by a veterinarian, because there are multiple factors that enter into the decision to diagnose and treat diabetes.
How dogs get diabetes
Evidence now suggests that dog diabetes may be an immune-mediated phenomenon, just as it is in humans with Type 1 diabetes. It may also have a genetic component, researchers are finding. Compounding factors that can accelerate its development include obesity.
Diabetes can’t be cured, but it can be managed with daily insulin injections and good dietary control. The amount of insulin needed varies with each dog and must be established through a series of blood sugar tests designed to see when the levels of glucose in the blood reach highs and lows. Insulin injections are easily given to dogs at home. Your veterinarian can demonstrate how to give the subcutaneous (beneath the skin) injection to your dog.
Excerpt from the book,The Original Dog Bible
Treating diabetes in dogs
Typically, the treatment is a very small injection of insulin under the skin twice a day. The insulin, and small syringes and needles, are also readily available at any pharmacy. Unfortunately, once a day insulin does not control glucose levels well enough.
The insulin injection will cause glucose to be absorbed into cells so that calories are absorbed and metabolized, and weight loss is arrested. Normal volumes of urine are produced, and water intake also normalizes. Unfortunately, treatment of diabetes in dogs is usually for the duration of their lives.
In general the injections are well tolerated, especially if followed by a treat, so dog owners should not be discouraged from treatment. The prognosis is fair to good, with recommended rechecks with their veterinarian and home monitoring. Many dog owners can collect a small amount of blood (which is the best sample for monitoring blood sugar) from their dogs dew claw or from a prominent vein.
Diabetes and diet
Diet can help manage diabetes in dogs so they may need less insulin, but there is no diet or supplement that will reverse diabetes in dogs. It’s important for dogs with diabetes to eat a diet with moderate amounts of carbohydrates and increased levels of fiber. They also need to eat specific amounts at specific times to help minimize fluctuations in blood sugar levels. It’s important to keep the amount of dog food constant to ensure that the dog doesn’t get too much or too little insulin. Too much insulin leads to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
Excerpt from the book,The Original Dog Bible, edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe, with permission from its publisher, BowTie Press. PurchaseThe Original Dog Bible here.