In this post, Dr Candice Forster from Pawssum Vet to Home Services takes a look at diabetes in dogs. A service that sends vets to the homes of pets, Pawssum maintains a presence in cities around Australia. For further insights, follow Pawssum on Facebook and Instagram!
What is diabetes?
Diabetes in dogs is caused by a deficiency of insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin allows the cells in the body to take up glucose from the blood where it then converts to energy. Without enough insulin (Type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes) or with insulin resistance (Type 2 and 3 or non-insulin dependent diabetes) the glucose remains in the blood stream resulting in high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia). Dogs most commonly have insulin-dependent diabetes.
What causes diabetes in dogs?
The most common cause of diabetes in dogs is damage to the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This can be immune mediated, where the body attacks its own cells or as a result of pancreatitis. There is likely a genetic predisposition as some breeds have a higher incidence of diabetes. Contributing factors include obesity, concurrent disease including Cushing’s Disease in dogs, (Hyperadrenocorticism), growth hormone excess in entire female dogs, and drug administration – particularly corticosteroid drugs such as prednisolone.
How can I tell if my dog has diabetes?
Diabetes typically affects middle aged to older dogs. Dogs with diabetes have increased hunger and may lose weight despite an increased appetite. They will also drink and urinate more. If Owners don’t notice the warning signs of diabetes, the disease will progress. In this instance, the dog can develop diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication. This is the result of the breakdown of fat to ketones because the cells can’t channel glucose into energy. Signs of ketoacidosis may include not wanting to eat, lethargy, vomiting, and collapse.
How do we diagnose diabetes in dogs?
Your veterinarian will ask about your pet’s behaviour and eating, drinking, and urination habits. From this info, there may be symptoms that suggest diabetes. A blood test can determine the level of glucose in the blood, as well as checking for concurrent diseases. Vets will also usually also request a urine sample to test for glucose and ketones. We also recommend that you test urine for bacteria, because diabetic dogs are prone to urinary tract infections.
How do we treat diabetes in dogs?
Diabetes in dogs usually requires life-long management with twice daily insulin injections. Pet Owners will learn how to give these injections so that they are able to manage their pet’s diabetes at home. Owners need to carefully determine the dose of insulin by consulting with their veterinarian. It can sometimes take several weeks to establish the correct dose of insulin to stabilise the diabetic patient. Vets achieve this through blood testing, which monitors blood sugar levels over time. Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) is a potential complication of giving insulin, and can be life-threatening. Dog Owners must take care to give the correct dose of insulin.
Diet, feeding, and exercise routines for dogs need to be consistent. Diabetic dogs benefit from a high-fibre diet to minimise fluctuations in glucose levels. Prescription diets for diabetic dogs are also commercially available. It is important to monitor appetite, energy levels, water intake and body weight. It is also possible to check for glucose and ketones in the urine using test strips at home. This information is useful, as it will allow your vet to assess the best way to control your dog’s diabetes.
Don’t panic if this all sounds really complicated! If your pet is diagnosed with diabetes, your vet will be able to guide you every step of the way with managing their condition. Regular check-ups will ensure you can manage your pet’s diabetes optimally. Many people think that they would not be able to give their pet injections but there are insulin pens available that make giving the injection very simple and straightforward and most pets will tolerate it well. It is important to remember if you notice any changes in your pet’s behaviour, appetite, thirst, urinary habits or weight to get them checked out by your veterinarian as soon as possible.