It’s estimated that diabetes in dogs affects every one in three hundred (0.3%)†. Diabetes mellitus is a disease of the pancreas, specifically of the organ’s beta cells. Beta cells produce the hormone insulin, which regulates the level of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. It also controls the delivery of glucose throughout the body. Diabetes mellitus is caused by the failure of the pancreas to regulate blood sugar.
This disease impacts your pet’s health because glucose is a vital substance that provides much of the energy needed by cells.
Signs and symptoms of diabetes in dogs
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
When the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the cells of the body go into starvation mode, because they are deprived of glucose. In response, the body begins to break down its stores of fat and protein, causing weight loss. This in turn may trigger a ravenous appetite and excessive thirst in your dog, leading to excessive urination.
How is diabetes in dogs diagnosed?
When you bring your dog to the vet for suspected diabetes, your dog’s blood and urine will likely be tested for high glucose levels potentially signaling diabetes. It is often necessary to check dogs for urinary tract infections when they are diagnosed with diabetes. This is because bacteria thrive in the glucose-laden urine of untreated diabetic dogs.
What causes diabetes in dogs?
There are three types of diabetes mellitus, and they’re slightly different.
Type I – Diabetes mellitus
The most common type in dogs is called Type 1 diabetes mellitus. This is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes. In diabetes mellitus, the insulin-producing beta cells have been completely destroyed. Treatment requires regular insulin injections (generally two per day) to stabilize blood sugar. The amount of insulin depends on your dog’s blood glucose levels.
Type II – Non-insulin dependent diabetes
Type II is non-insulin dependent, and is more common in obese or older dogs. In this case, the body does produce some insulin, but not enough. There currently is no oral drug for dogs to stimulate the remaining beta cells into action. Therefore, dogs with this condition will require insulin injections, a diet change, and weight loss.
Type III – Insulin-resistant diabetes
Type III diabetes results from insulin resistance caused by other hormones. Cushing’s disease (when the body makes too much cortisol hormone) is a common cause, and hormone-secreting tumors may also be a source. Treatments vary, depending upon your pet’s specific condition.
Treatment for diabetes in dogs
Treating diabetes in dogs requires a commitment of time, energy and financial resources. In addition to paying for and administering insulin, you will need to organize a very strict feeding schedule. Your dog will need to be fed the same food at the same time every day.
If you travel and don’t take your dog with you, you will need to make solid plans with an experienced, reliable helper to make sure that your dog receives proper medication and food at regularly scheduled times. Inconsistencies in treatment may result in hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Airvet recommends that you keep a current journal or spreadsheet of your dog’s blood glucose numbers, aligned with the feeding and medication schedule.
Regulating diabetes in dogs
Costs associated with managing diabetes in dogs are generally highest during the initial process of regulating diabetes and while working to get it under control. Sometimes, dogs are hospitalized briefly during the first phase of diabetes treatment. This is particularly true if they are very lethargic and refuse to eat very much. You may need a month or so to achieve good insulin regulation.
Managing dog diabetes as a chronic condition
Once your pet is stabilized, visit your vet regularly to monitor progress. Monitoring your dog at home is easier than in the past thanks to new technology. Devices to monitor diabetes include glucometers made specifically for pets as well as wearable continuous glucose monitors.
When canine diabetes mellitus is properly regulated, your dog’s prognosis is good. Proper treatment and careful monitoring helps ensure that your dog lives a longer, happier life. Continue to monitor your dog closely and take quick action if your dog’s behavior or condition changes.
If you’re concerned about your dog’s diabetes, reach out to Airvet and connect with a veterinary professional now. And if you haven’t already, download the top-rated Airvet app today!
† Canine diabetes mellitus; can old dogs teach us new tricks? Catchpole B, Ristic JM, Fleeman LM,Davison LJ. Diabetologia 48:1948-1956, 2005.