“How Can I Help My Dog With Diabetes Live Longer?”
Dogs can get diabetes just like humans do. Here I will go over what diabetes is, what causes it, the symptoms, diagnosis and care of a dog with diabetes.
First, what is diabetes, and how does it affects dogs? Diabetes in dogs is a common condition that affects the amount of glucose, (sugar,) in your dog’s blood. Diabetes occurs when your dog’s body doesn’t make enough insulin, stops making it entirely, or has an abnormal reaction to insulin. Insulin affects how your dog’s body uses food
When your dog eats, carbohydrates are converted into several types of simple sugars, including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the blood, where it travels to cells throughout the body. Insulin is required for the transfer of glucose from the blood into the cells so it can be used for energy. If there’s too little insulin available, glucose can’t enter cells, and instead builds up to a high concentration in the bloodstream. This is known as hyperglycemia. As a result, there is not enough energy for the cells to work normally and they are “starved.” Over time, weight loss happens despite an increased appetite. The build-up of glucose in the blood spills over into the urine and utilizes large amounts of water, resulting in increased thirst and more frequent urination. A common side effect of diabetes in dogs is cataracts and can lead to blindness if left untreated. I am not a veterinarian. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, please take your dog to your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Left untreated, diabetes can cause blindness and death.
Most dogs are diagnosed with diabetes between the ages of 4 and 14 years of age. Younger dogs can get diabetes though. This is just the average age of diagnosis.
How Common is Pet Diabetes? Canine diabetes is more common in middle-aged and older dogs, but it is also seen in young dogs. While believed to be under-diagnosed, diabetes affects approximately one in 1 in 300 dogs. Unspayed female dogs are twice as likely to get diabetes. The primary cause of canine diabetes is unknown, but many suggest that genetics may play a role. This is why some breeds are more prone to diabetes because of genetics. Female dogs are also more prone to diabetes than male dogs.
Any breed dog can get diabetes.
The breeds that are the most at risk for diabetes are:
- Bichon Frise
- Cocker Spaniel
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Toy Poodles
If you are worried about your pet is more prone to getting diabetes, talk to your veterinarian, and ask if a yearly test for diabetes is recommended. Other things that may be linked to diabetes are:
- Cushing disease
- Repeated bouts of pancreatitis
The most common symptoms are:
- The dog is thirsty all the time and drinks a lot of water
- The dog pees often and large amounts
- Always hungry
- May be losing weight
- Their eyes may show cloudiness (a sign of cataracts that leads to blindness).
- Some sleep more than usual
- Others are suddenly hyperactive
You know your dog better than anyone. If your dog has these symptoms and seems off, it is a good idea to check with your veterinarian to rule out diabetes. Dogs that receive treatment can live very well. Without treatment, diabetes can shorten your dog’s life. Unfortunately, untreated diabetes is toxic and eventually causes damage to many organs. This often includes damage to the kidneys, eyes, heart, blood vessels, or nerves. Advanced diabetes can lead to vomiting, seizures, kidney failure, and lethargy.
Diabetes is not curable, but it can be treated effectively in dogs. Diet, exercise, and medication are the most common treatments recommended. Your veterinarian will help guide you in these areas. Measuring your dog’s food and feeding on a schedule are often suggested. Treats are usually avoided. Regular walks are often beneficial. I help clients manage diabetes in their dogs, and it is not hard or complicated. The dog clients also receive an insulin shot prescribed by their vet based on the dog’s weight about 15 minutes after breakfast and another shot after dinner. Their two measured meals are spaced about 12 hours apart. You may be afraid to give injections as I was initially. It really is easy, though. The needles are skinny, and the dogs don’t seem to mind them at all. Once you get over the fear of giving your dog a shot, it is straightforward. It is important to administer the proper dose after meals as prescribed by your veterinarian. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to give a shot. My clients with diabetes are leading happy, normal lives. You wouldn’t know by looking at them that anything was wrong. Set a timer on your phone so your dog gets his meals and injections on time. Timing is important. With proper management, most of the symptoms like excessive thirst and urination subside or disappear altogether, and your dog can be their fun loving selves again.
Monitoring glucose levels is important. You can monitor either by blood tests or urine tests. Blood tests are more accurate. Your vet will show you how to do this and will tell you what to watch for. Weight gain can affect glucose levels. Meals should be measured and the same amount and provided at the same time daily. Splurges and treats are not advised because changes in the diet will affect glucose levels. Maintaining a healthy weight is more important than ever before. Exercise can affect glucose levels too. Sudden bursts of exercise are to be avoided as they can deplete glucose levels. Steady routine daily exercise is best.
Spaying a female dog is important in relation to glucose levels because some of the hormones produced by female dogs (progesterone) that are not spayed can interfere with medication. Talk to your vet about this and other considerations. Surgeries on dogs with diabetes come with greater risks than those of healthy dogs without underlying conditions.
With proper treatment and monitoring, the good news is that pets with diabetes can live long, happy lives.
If your pet needs surgery or becomes ill, pay extra attention to them. If they are not eating or their energy level doesn’t seem right, contact your veterinarian immediately. If a healthy, non-diabetic dog isn’t eating or misses a meal, it is not nearly as critical as when a diabetic dog isn’t eating. It can be life-threatening. Complications from surgery can also be critical, so thoroughly discuss what you should be monitoring with a diabetic dog post any medical procedures. Also, discuss the importance of noting any behavior changes with the rest of your family and pet’s caregivers. Everyone in the family needs to understand the importance of following proper care. You don’t want a child sneaking extra treats to the pet or a dog walker over-exercising the pet, for example.
If you need to leave town and want to know the best options for your pet’s care while you are away, I wrote an article about senior pet care here.
Originally published at https://mrycpetcare.com on December 16, 2020.