You may be surprised and disheartened if you learn that your dog has diabetes. But with proper care, your beloved pup can live a long and healthy life.
There’s little or no evidence to suggest that dogs get Type 2 diabetes, although cats can. Dogs can and do develop Type 1 diabetes. Just like in human beings, this form of the condition is marked by a lack of insulin, the hormone that keeps blood sugar in check.
When an animal or human has diabetes, their muscles have trouble converting glucose into energy. An excess of glucose builds up in the blood, causing a state of hyperglycemia. If left untreated, this will develop into severe health problems.
Dog diabetes symptoms
Diabetes can manifest in many different symptoms you may have already noticed in your dog.
Constantly hungry or thirsty
Often, diabetic dogs will show an excessive need for food and water, along with increased urination.
Partially because of the increase in urination, diabetic dogs who have previously been housetrained may start to go to the bathroom inside again.
If your dog is eating normally — or even chowing down more than usual — but still losing weight, this can be a sign of diabetes.
In later stages of diabetes, dogs may vomit or even stop eating completely.
Lethargy and depression
Another late-stage symptom, your dog may be diabetic if you notice that he or she seems unusually lethargic or depressed.
If you have witnessed these symptoms in your dog, or have other reasons to believe your dog has developed diabetes, you should schedule an appointment with your vet immediately. Through medical tests, your vet will be able to determine whether diabetes is present.
Causes of diabetes in dogs and how to treat it
Diabetes is still a subject of investigation for veterinary science. Doctors are not quite sure what causes the disease, although female dogs and obese dogs are at a higher risk. Diabetes is also common in older dogs, beginning to develop at any time from 6 to 9 years of age.
Genetics, certain hormone therapies, and pancreatitis are also suspected causes of the condition. Specific breeds have higher instances of diabetes, such as Australian terriers, schnauzers, dachshunds, poodles, keeshonds and Samoyeds. Juvenile diabetes is prevalent among golden retrievers and keeshonds.
Treatment for diabetic dogs will vary widely depending on the size of your dog, other health conditions, and the severity of each individual case. In general, a combination of insulin with a modified diet and exercise is enough to manage your dog’s blood sugar.
Most cases of diabetes in dogs will require regular doses of insulin. Severe cases may require short hospital stays while glucose levels stabilize. Once your dog’s specific dose of insulin is determined, your vet will show you how to administer it at home. Current insulin delivery systems include pens, syringes, pumps, jet injectors, and inhalers. Be aware, though, that if you have pet insurance it may only cover one specific option.
Diet and exercise
It’s important to keep your dog’s blood sugar at a healthy level. One of the best ways to do this is keeping your dog trim with daily exercise and a well-balanced diet.
Your vet will probably lay down strict dietary restrictions for your dog. He or she will regulate calorie intake based on your dog’s activity level and size.
Though researchers are still working on the ideal diet for diabetics, high fiber foods are usually recommended. Fiber slows down the sugar intake levels in the blood and helps your dog feel fuller after meals.
Because of this, your vet may recommend a high fiber brand of dog food. Prescription dog foods or homemade recipes are also a possibility. Whatever your vet recommends, make sure you follow his or her plan closely.
Though caring for a diabetic dog isn’t always easy, your dog can live a long and happy life despite the condition. You may even find that the extra care and attention you give your dog brings you closer together.