An Introduction to Dog DiabetesWhen the ‘perfect storm’ of risk factors aligns, a dog from a breed prone to diabetes may tip over into clinical disease.
What Causes Canine Diabetes?Sugar diabetes in dogs is commonly the result of a lack of the sugar regulating hormone, insulin. This under-production of insulin can happen if the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas (the factory making insulin), or the dog has pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), or due to genetic factors. To complicate the picture, other dog health factors can reduce the ability of body tissue to bind with insulin and what little hormone is present becomes less effective. These other health problems include obesity, Cushing’s disease, underactive thyroid glands, acromegaly (too much growth hormone) and infections.
Dog Breeds at Increased Risk of DiabetesA quirk of fate means that some breeds are more likely to develop dog diabetes than others. These breeds include: Australian Terrier Standard Schnauzer Miniature Schnauzer Bichon Frise Spitz Fox Terrier Miniature Poodle Samoyed Cairn Terrier Keeshond Maltese Toy Poodle Lhasa Apso Yorkshire Terrier This doesn’t mean your purebred dog will inevitably develop diabetes. Only a small percentage will develop diabetes, but it is wise to reduce the risk by keeping your dog healthy, slim, and active.
What are the Signs of Diabetes in Dogs?Any change from your dog’s regular habits warns of a possible dog health problem. In common with many dog diseases, the signs of diabetes are quite general and include increased thirst and urination, weight loss despite a good appetite, and lack of energy. Diabetes also weakens the immune system so the dog may have repeat infections. The good news is the sooner this dog health problem is spotted, the easier it is to treat and with fewer complications. Common signs a problem is brewing include:
- Drinking more: Are you constantly refilling the water bowl?
- Big wees: The dog may need to go out more often or has accidents overnight
- Always hungry: The dog nags for more food
- Weight loss: Despite a good appetite, the dog loses weight
- Cataracts: Cloudy lens can mean the dog can’t see well and bumps into things
- Poor coat: The once luxurious fur becomes dull and dry
- Bad breath: An unpleasant odor, similar to nail polish remover, lingers on the dog’s breath
- Lethargy: The dog lacks energy and lags behind on walks
- Weakness: He may struggle to get up and lose interest in playing
- Coma: In the severest cases the dog may lapse into a coma
Life with a Dog with DiabetesOK, so your dog is diagnosed with diabetes: What will life be like?
Life ExpectancyExperts tell us that the average diabetic dog lives for around 2.7 years after diagnosis, and for dogs with good glucose control there may be little impact on their life expectancy. Certainly an incentive to get things right!
Changes to RoutineArguably the biggest impact on life is that a diabetic dog needs a structured day. He requires regular meals at a set schedule, followed by an insulin injection. You’ll also need to monitor factors such as appetite, thirst, activity levels, and attitude.
Alerts to CatastropheIf you can’t be present in person to watch for telltale signs of distress or dangerously low blood sugar, then a PetPace collar provides a solution. The collar allows you to remotely monitor how active (or not) your dog is, along with his breathing patterns and heart rate – giving you a valuable warning if the condition deteriorates. With the information sent real-time to your smartphone, you can check on the dog any time and, if required, schedule an urgent trip home.
Monitoring Blood Sugar LevelsDog diabetes is managed differently than human diabetes. With dogs, insulin injections are usually given twice a day, rather than every few hours as in people. You or your vet may run a blood glucose curve whilst the dog is being stabilized and the ideal dose of insulin determined. This can be done at the vet’s office, or with a little training you can use a glucometer at home. Blood glucose levels are monitored for two reasons:
- To determine the dose of insulin
- To check for dangerously low blood sugar