Dog Diabetes Signs, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Dog diabetes is a relatively common dog health issue that all too often goes undetected until an emergency occurs. While only about 1 in 500 dogs are diagnosed, some estimates show that as many as 1 in 100 dogs have it.

Either way, it is becoming more common, possibly as a result of the increase in canine obesity.

What are the Main Dog Diabetes Signs and Symptoms?

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  • The signs and symptoms of dog diabetes may not always be obvious or consistently visible, which is the main reason it often goes unnoticed in many dogs.

    The primary symptoms that are seen in most (not every) dog with diabetes include:

    • Cataracts – a condition of the eyes where clouding develops in the lens of the eye causing near-sightedness and eventual vision loss if left untreated
    • Lethargy – consistent laziness and lack of interest in exercise and play
    • Polydipsia – excessive water consumption – dogs with diabetes drink too much water because of their body’s over production of glucose or because the glucose can’t be metabolized by the body properly
    • Polyuria – excessive urination
    • Weight gain – many dogs who have diabetes often lack energy and this inactivity can result in weight gain
    • Weight loss – weight loss caused by dog diabetes can be excessive, may go in spurts or may be more gradual in nature. Weight loss is a result of the breakdown of fats and muscle in order to make glucose and ketones in the liver.

    If you have noticed any of the above symptoms combined in your dog, it is best to have your dog tested for diabetes.

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    What is dog diabetes and is it the same as diabetes in humans?

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    A high-level knowledge of human diabetes and the associated insulin injections is common, but do you understand the specific differences between a diabetic and a non-diabetic in terms of body processes?

    Understanding how diabetes affects the functioning of our own bodies will in turn explain how it affects our dogs… since the process works exactly the same in both.

    According to veterinary diabetes expert, Peter A. Graham, BVMS, PhD, diabetes functions in the following way:

    “Diabetes Mellitus is a group of conditions in which there is a deficiency of the hormone insulin or an insensitivity to it. Insulin is produced in the islet cells of the pancreas and is normally responsible for controlling blood concentrations of the body's main fuel, glucose.

    In normal animals, insulin does this by preventing glucose production by the liver and ensuring that excess glucose derived from food which is not needed for energy is put into body stores.

    In a diabetic animal there is insufficient insulin to switch off glucose production by the liver or to efficiently store excess glucose derived from energy giving foods. This means that the blood concentration of glucose rises and eventually exceeds a level beyond which the kidneys let glucose leak into the urine.

    This loss of glucose in urine takes water with it by a process called osmosis and causes larger volumes of urine to be produced than normal.”

    This process produces a number of correlating symptoms including excessive thirst and urination and is most commonly controlled by the administration of daily insulin injections along with a controlled diet.

    With proper care, diabetes can be controlled and is rarely the sole cause of death in canines or humans.

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    Are Certain Dogs More Likely to Develop Dog Diabetes?

    Though there are many dogs that develop diabetes for seemingly no explainable reason, there are a number of factors that put certain dogs at a greater risk of developing diabetes.

    How to Tell if Your Dog is Overweight

    As a general rule of thumb, when viewed from above, your dog should have a noticeable waist between the end of the rib cage and the start of the hind-quarters.

    When viewed side-on your dog should have a narrower abdomen than chest, although this will vary from breed to breed.

    When you run your hand over your dog's back and sides with light pressure you should be able to feel his spine and rib cage.

    If you still can't tell whether your dog needs to lose a few, talk with your vet to be sure.

    Experts do not always agree on the risk factors for varying diseases so we will focus on the factors which are supported by the research and the majority of veterinary medical experts.

    The following is a list of common risk factors for dog diabetes:

    • Senior dogs over the age of 10 years are the most likely to develop diabetes
    • Dogs who are considered overweight by their veterinarian are at a much greater risk of developing diabetes.
    • Un-spayed female dogs, followed closely by spayed female dogs, are at greater risk of developing diabetes than male dogs.
    • Dogs weighing less than 50 pounds are more susceptible to diabetes than heavier dogs
    • Less common, but still possible, is the development of diabetes as a secondary disease in virus infections and immune diseases.
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    Can Dog Diabetes be Cured with Medications?

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  • Does your dog have diabetes? Please share your experiences...
  • Does your dog have diabetes? Please share your experiences...
  • While it is not possible to cure dog diabetes with medication, it is very possible to manage the diabetes with insulin injections and proper stabilization. Most dogs who are diagnosed as diabetic can lead very normal and happy lives once the condition is under control.

    Why do insulin injections help control diabetes?

    To better understand why insulin shots are necessary, here’s a quick run-down of what happens after a dog with diabetes eats a meal:

    After the meal is eaten, the dog’s body breaks down the food into glucose and other nutrients, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, the glucose level in the dog’s body rises after a meal and in turn, triggers the pancreas to produce the hormone insulin to be released into the bloodstream.

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    But in the body of a dog with diabetes, insulin is not produced properly. Without insulin, the glucose can’t get into the cells. As a result, the glucose stays in the blood stream leading to high blood sugar levels that can cause of a number of health issues.

    Insulin injections are needed to supply the body with an adequate amount of insulin to finish the digestive process and maintain the body’s blood glucose levels.

    There are a few different types of insulin injections that can be prescribed for a diabetes in dogs and some of the longer lasting insulin shots require administration only once daily.

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    What is stabilization and why is it necessary?

    In order to ensure that a diabetic dog’s blood glucose levels remain healthy, it is vitally important to maintain all of the other factors, other than insulin, that affect glucose levels on a daily basis. These factors include:

    • Composition of food – Dogs with diabetes need to eat a very healthy and well-rounded diet full of good protein and all necessary vitamins and minerals. The quality of your dog food plays a huge role in the health and well-being of the animal.
    • Amount of food – It is also important to control the amount of food the diabetic dog eats at each meal, making sure to keep the amount exactly the same with each feeding.
    • Timing of feedings – The diabetic dog should eat at the same time every day to help ensure proper digestion.
    • Exercise – Controlling the amount of exercise a diabetic dog gets in also very important. Keeping the amount of exercise and the times of exercise constant each day will be beneficial.
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    Can Dog Diabetes Be Prevented?

    Unfortunately, in certain cases dog diabetes does not seem to be preventable. Some believe these cases to be genetic or even dependent upon breed.

    In other cases, it may be possible to help prevent the development of dog diabetes through dog weight management, a healthy dog food diet and a proper exercise routine.

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    Your Experience with Dog Diabetes

    Does your dog have diabetes?

    If so, please share your experiences and advice...

    - How did you find out she had it?
    - Have there been any health issues as a result?
    - What treatments have you used and how have they worked?
    - Any advice to help other owners with diabetic dogs?

    And don't forget to upload a picture of your buddy as well!

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    Dog Diabetes Experiences from Other Visitors

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    I just found out yesterday my chocolate lab Rufus has dog diabetes. He was very overweight and I had started reducing is food and snacks, then all at once …

    Click here to write your own.

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