Like humans, dogs can develop chronic diseases at any age. A common disease among dogs is diabetes. While diabetes can’t be cured, it can be effectively managed.
Here is your guide to caring for a dog living with diabetes.
According to the American Kennel Club, the most common form of diabetes seen in dogs is “diabetes mellitus” or “sugar diabetes.” This type of diabetes is a metabolism (how the body converts energy to food) disorder.
In order to fully understand the scope of diabetes, you’ll need to understand the process.
Similar to humans, there is a glucose and insulin connection. Glucose is essential to fuel the body’s cells. During digestion, the body breaks down certain nutrients into glucose – a type of sugar that is an essential source of energy for specific cells and organs. Glucose is then absorbed from the dog’s intestines into the blood, transporting the glucose throughout the body.
Insulin is essential for delivering fuel to the body. It acts as a “gatekeeper” that commands the cells to get glucose as well as other nutrients out of the bloodstream and turn it into fuel.
So What Exactly Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is essentially the disconnection between glucose and insulin. There are two forms of diabetes in dogs: “insulin-deficiency” and “insulin-resistance”.
Insulin-deficiency diabetes is the most common form in dogs and occurs when the body isn’t producing enough insulin in the body. It happens when the pancreas is no longer functioning properly or damaged. Pups with an insulin-deficiency need daily insulin shots.
Insulin-resistant diabetes, on the other hand, is when their body isn’t utilizing insulin as it should. The pups cells aren’t able to respond to the insulin so glucose is unable to get into their cells. Insulin-resistant diabetes often occurs in senior, overweight dogs.
Diabetes cause a sugar build-up and can lead to fuel-deprived cells. The body will start breaking down their own fats and proteins to use as fuel. Furthermore, high blood sugar can cause organ damage – especially to the kidneys, hearts, eyes, blood vessels, or nerves.
Who Is At Risk?
Although diabetes can happen at any age, it tends to occur in older or senior dogs – typically those who are five years of age or older. Furthermore, un-spayed females are nearly twice as likely as males to develop diabetes.
Overweight dogs tend to suffer from insulin resistance and can cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) – another cause of diabetes.
Other health conditions such as autoimmune disorders or viral diseases can also cause diabetes.
Genetics may also play a role in developing diabetes. Some breeds that are more prone to developing this disease include Poodles, Pugs, Dachshunds, Bichons Frises, Miniature Schnauzers, Samoyeds, and more.
What Are The Symptoms?
Similar to humans with diabetes, symptoms include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, and increased appetite. If they are suffering from a more advanced case of diabetes, symptoms will include lack of energy, loss of appetite, depression, and vomiting.
Without proper treatment, diabetes can cause cataracts leading to blindness, enlarged liver, seizures, urinary tract infections, and kidney failure.
Treatment of Diabetes
Although diabetes can’t be cured, there are ways to manage it. If your dog is diagnosed with this disease, your veterinarian will put your pup on a special diet. This will most often include protein, along with fiber and complex carbohydrates.
Veterinarians will also recommend exercise as a way to help avoid spikes or drops in glucose levels. If your dog isn't able to exercise - whether from age or injury - try enlisting the help of a pet stroller or dog carrier. It will help alleviate their pain while still allowing them to get some fresh air outside.
If your dog is suffering from insulin-deficiency diabetes, you’ll have to give your dog daily insulin shots. While it may sound scary, it’s not as hard as you may think! Over time it’ll become second nature.
While it’s not always easy caring for a dog with diabetes, it’s certainly manageable! With the right treatment and management, your pup can live the best life they can.