Written by Ella White
You’re probably aware of diabetes in humans, but did you know dogs can develop this chronic disease too? There are a number of ways dogs can develop diabetes, and though it can’t be fully cured it can be managed effectively so, should your dog be diagnosed, you don’t need to worry too much about their quality of life.
In this blog, we’ll look at the causes of diabetes in dogs, how to spot the symptoms, and how diabetes in dogs is treated and managed.
In healthy dogs, the food they eat is digested and broken down into glucose – a sugar that fuels some cells and organs. This is absorbed from the intestines into the blood. The cells know to absorb the glucose and use it as fuel thanks to insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas. If either of these two functions aren’t working, it can lead to diabetes.
There are two forms of diabetes that can occur in dogs:
Insulin deficiency is the most common cause of diabetes. It occurs when a dog’s body doesn’t produce enough insulin. This could be caused by damage or malfunction to the pancreas, and is usually treated by daily injections of insulin.
Insulin resistance occurs when the pancreas is able to produce some insulin, but the body isn’t utilizing that insulin the way it should. If the cells in a dog’s body aren’t responding to the insulin, then the cells won’t receive glucose from the blood. This type of diabetes is more common in older and overweight dogs. Temporary insulin resistance can also occur in female dogs while they’re in heat or pregnant.
There are a number of factors that can cause dogs to develop diabetes, and some – but not all – of them can be prevented.
Owners of the following dog breeds should be aware of their predisposition to diabetes:
Diabetes causes excess sugar to build up in the bloodstream, while the cells that need sugar for fuel cannot access it. Muscle and organ cells are then deprived of the glucose they need to create energy, leading the body to break down fats and proteins as an alternative source of fuel.
High sugar levels in the blood can also ‘poison’ the organs, and can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and kidneys. To diagnose diabetes in dogs, vets will carry out simple tests to check their blood sugar levels.
The long-term effects of diabetes on a dog’s health can include:
There are some clear early signs of diabetes that dog owners should be aware of:
As diabetes develops, more advanced symptoms are displayed:
The best treatment for a diabetic dog will be prescribed based on the individual needs of your pet. However, most diabetic dogs will be given a management and treatment plan by their vet. This will probably include:
With the right support and a closely-followed diabetes management plan, dogs with either form of canine diabetes can live long, happy lives.