Diabetes is becoming an increasingly common problem in dogs and is frequently seen in veterinary practice. It most commonly occurs between the ages of 7-9 years, but can occur at any age and in any breed.
Diabetes, more specifically named Diabetes mellitus, is a condition caused by a lack of insulin production by the pancreas, or by the development of insulin resistance so that the body no longer responds to insulin when it is produced. Insulin is required to maintain blood sugar (glucose) levels, allowing the movement of glucose from the blood into the cells where it can be metabolised or stored. Without insulin the blood glucose levels become very high but the cells are deprived of the glucose and so the body continues to crave more food, this is why diabetic dogs often have an increased appetite.
Obesity can significantly increase the risk of developing diabetes because it overstimulates the pancreas to produce insulin until eventually it becomes resistant or cannot produce any more.
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Weight loss despite an increased appetite
As the disease progresses more severe symptoms may develop including:
- Reduced appetite
- Sweet smelling breath
These symptoms can be a sign of a potentially life-threatening stage of diabetes called ketoacidosis and it is important to have your dog examined by a vet as soon as possible if these symptoms are present.
If you are concerned your dog may have diabetes then book an appointment to see your vet. It may be helpful to take a urine sample with you for the vet to test, as glucose in the urine can be an indicator of diabetes. If your vet thinks that your dog is showing appropriate signs, then they will recommend a blood test to check blood glucose and/or fructosamine levels. Sometimes it is appropriate to check other blood parameters at the same time, as symptoms for diabetes can be similar to that of other conditions.
Once a diagnosis has been made then your vet will discuss treatment options with you. Treatment involves twice daily insulin injections given under the skin, alongside dietary management. This can often sound daunting to many owners but a vet will demonstrate everything to you and discuss in detail how best to manage a diabetic pet. We also have a 24 hour nursing team and are happy to answer any questions at any time of night, so if you’re worried or just not sure what to do then give us a call on 01543 262464.
In many cases, dogs respond well to insulin therapy and can continue to lead an otherwise normal lifestyle.