Diabetes in dogs: cause, symptoms, complications and treatment

Diabetes in dogs is a widespread disease: some studies have calculated that it affects one in every 500 samples.
In most cases, it is type I diabetes or diabetes mellitus. This type of diabetes means that the body of the dog produces little insulin.

In this way, the carbohydrate metabolism does not proceed correctly and the sugar concentration in the blood increases, causing hyperglycemia.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas: its function is to maintain normal glucose levels and to convert excess energy reserves into fat. When the dog is diabetic, this perfect mechanism is blocked.

Blood sugar levels increase and the dog begins to show the first symptoms of the disease.

Diabetes in dogs: causes

Although the causes of diabetes in dogs are not yet perfectly clear, some predisposing diseases have been identified:

• Cushing’s disease
• hypersomatotropism
• chronic infections
• pancreatic tumors
• pancreatitis
• prolonged administration of drugs such as corticosteroids and progestins.

In addition, causing the onset of diabetes, there may be an incorrect diet, obesity and chronological age progress.

Diabetes in dogs: predisposed breeds

The dogs most exposed to diabetes are elderly and unsterilized women. Veterinary studies have also revealed a hereditary and genetic predisposition, listing the breeds of dogs most affected by diabetes:
• Keeshond
• Bums
• Samoyed
• German dog
• Alaskan malamutes
• Miniatures of Schnauzer
• Chow chow
• Beagle
• Doberman
• Labrador retriever
• Hungarian Puli
• Golden retriever
• Miniature Pinschers
• English sheepdog
• Springer Spaniel
• Schipperke
• Finnish Spitz
• West Highland White Terrier
• Cairn terrier

Diabetes in dogs: symptoms

So, how do we see that our dog has developed some form of diabetes?
There are 4 main symptoms of diabetes in dogs, called 4P, that should alert us to:
1. polyuria: increases urine production
2. polydipsia: uncontrolled thirst
3. polyphagia: relentless hunger
4. weight loss: despite the increase in appetite.

These early symptoms may be accompanied by other manifestations of malaise, which are usually the expression of overt diabetes and worsening:
• lethargy
• Diabetic cataract with ocular opacity
• problems with the coat
• bloated attitude: the dog rests the backs of the legs on the ground, has a reduced mobility and difficulties to jump.

If we observe one or more of these elements, it is good to immediately reserve a view at the vet.

Diabetes in dogs: treatment and therapy

The veterinarian will diagnose diabetes by detecting: hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in the blood, glycosuria (presence of glucose in the urine) and increased fructosamine in the dog’s blood.

The treatment of diabetes consists of the administration of insulin and the prescription of a diet low in carbohydrates.

Insulin should be administered by subcutaneous injections, usually twice daily, during or after meals. Insulin should be stored in the refrigerator as it is a delicate substance and shaken before being injected.

Different drug treatments have been tested for the dog, but have not yet yielded satisfactory results.

Diabetes in dogs: glycemic curves and controls

One of the most challenging aspects of treating diabetes in dogs is identifying the right dose of insulin to administer daily. For this reason, the veterinarian usually occurs in his establishment or has the glycemic curves run at home.

The owner of the dog receives a portable blood glucose meter: he has only to determine and record the blood sugar level of the dog every 2 hours, within 12 hours.

To understand which doses of insulin guarantee an optimal glycemia, the therapy is consolidated. Veterinary checks are used to understand if we are managing the disease well. They are first weeklies and biweekly.

Later, they will disappear: every month, every quarter or every trimester, when we have achieved optimal control of diabetes.

How long does a diabetic dog live?

In some cases, after a few weeks or months of insulin therapy, dogs regain the ability to maintain normal blood sugar levels. This condition is called clinical remission of diabetes.

“Healing” is more likely in cases where diabetes is the result of predisposing diseases that can be treated and if the disease has appeared recently (up to 3 months). In women, diabetes can appear 1 or 2 months after the heat due to hormonal disorders.

In this case, if the dog is quickly sterilized, diabetes can disappear.

In any case, the quality of life of a diabetic dog is excellent thanks to current therapies. The life expectancy is several years except in case of complications or diseases.

Diabetes in dogs: complications

Ketoacidosis is the most common complication of diabetes in dogs. Although urinary tract infections, skin infections, diabetic cataracts and neuropathies may also occur.

Ketoacidosis often develops if diabetes is not well controlled.

This pathology is characterized by the excessive production of substances that poison the body: ketone bodies. The most common clinical signs of ketoacidosis in dogs are: weakness, apathy, and vomiting.

Dogs with diabetic ketoacidosis should be hospitalized immediately. The veterinarian will monitor blood glucose, pH and electrolytes. Ketoacidosis, which is not treated quickly and is not diagnosed, can lead to death.

Finally, when taking care of a diabetic dog, pay attention to hypoglycemia. This happens if the insulin dose is too high. The blood sugar is too low and agitation and tremors appear (gluocose less than 50 mg / dl) or even convulsions if the rates are very low (less than 40/30 md / dl).

Hypoglycemia should be corrected quickly with an extra meal or a small dose of sugar or honey directly on the dog’s mouth or it can be fatal.

Diabetes in dogs: diet

If we have a diabetic dog, eating will be something we need to take care of. Meals should be given at regular times, twice a day.

The diet can be homemade – provided it is carefully studied by the nutritionist – or consists of specific foods. In all cases, the basic rules are: high quality protein sources, low sugar content, high fiber foods that promote insulin uptake.
The diet must keep the weight of the dog under control because weight gain aggravates the clinical picture of the diabetic dog.