Very much like in humans, diabetes is manageable in dogs. If your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, it will take some work to care for them, but your dog can live a normal life span and have a good quality of life.
You can avoid the serious life-threatening complications associated with diabetes with some careful management.
Diabetes affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin, which is a hormone made in the pancreas. Your dog’s body needs insulin to convert the sugar in food to energy, energy that is used by the muscles and organs.
If your dog is not producing insulin or using it the right way, excessive amounts of glucose (sugar) accumulate in their blood and urine.
Your dog can have primarily one of two different types of diabetes:
Type I is an insulin shortage. It’s the more severe form of diabetes and requires daily insulin injections.
Type II is when the body doesn’t use insulin properly.
No matter which type your dog has, diabetes prevents the body from converting glucose into energy. This causes too much glucose to accumulate in the blood. You may have heard this called hyperglycemia.
If you’re going to be successful in managing the disease you have to catch it early on. Be sure your dog is diagnosed as soon as you sense a problem.
Here are 7 signs your dog could be suffering from diabetes.
- Has your dog suddenly lost their vision?
It’s very common for dogs with diabetes to develop cataracts. They can develop very quickly…sometimes overnight! Cataracts make your dog’s eyes look cloudy and cause vision loss.
2. Does your dog urinate often and/or in copious amounts?
Urinating is the body’s way of getting rid of the excess glucose in the blood stream. When glucose levels get too high, the kidneys leak the excess glucose into the urine. This excess glucose needs excess water to flush it out. So the body uses whatever fluids it can find to do this. This results in large volumes of urine.
3. Is your dog drinking a lot of water?
Your dog will be thirsty because the body will be depleting its fluids as a result of #2. Watch for dehydration.
4. Is your dog unusually hungry?
In a healthy dog, glucose would be used as energy by the muscles and organs. But diabetes doesn’t allow the body to convert the food your dog eats into energy. This lack of energy increases hunger.
5. Is your dog losing weight even though they’re eating normally?
Diabetic animals lose weight because their body uses stores of fat and protein (muscle) to make the fuel – energy – they’re not getting from glucose.
Even if your dog is eating more than usual, the body isn’t using the food efficiently so they may continue to lose weight.
6. Has your dog stopped eating?
A complete loss of appetite is a sign of more advanced disease and would start to occur if the kidneys and/or liver were not functioning properly.
7. Is your dog lethargic, weak and vomiting?
This could be a sign that your diabetic dog has ketoacidosis, harmful levels of ketones in the blood. Ketones are the result of the body using fat instead of glucose for energy. They are a poisonous byproduct of this process that accumulates in the blood and urine. Ketoacidosis can happen after a prolonged period of high blood sugar and insulin deficiency.
If this list of symptoms has you concerned, call your vet immediately.
Blood work and a urinalysis will be sufficient to diagnose and initially treat your dog if they are diabetic. Your vet may suggest more tests if your dog is starting to show signs of complications from the disease.
It’s scary to find out your beloved pet has an incurable illness, but diabetes is treatable.
Your vet will prescribe a treatment plan that includes regular daily exercise; achieving and maintaining a healthy weight; managing insulin demands; and getting food and water cravings under control.
If your dog is overweight, your vet will want them to slowly get to a healthy weight. Obesity makes managing the disease very difficult.
If they’ve lost weight, your vet will advise how to best increase the dog’s weight slowly.
Usually, a dog with diabetes needs daily insulin injections to keep glucose levels under control. Although this seems daunting, it’s very doable.
The insulin is injected just under the skin. Right now your thinking, “Oh, how am I ever going to do that to my baby?”
Once you’ve done it a few times, it will become second nature. And it’ll just be a part of your daily doggy routine, like feeding them or brushing their teeth.
You’ll also need to monitor their glucose levels, and this can be a lot to keep track of, so keeping a journal is a good idea. You’ll log their blood glucose levels daily; and changes in appetite, weight, appearance, water intake, urination, as well as any treatment changes your vet suggests.
Your vet will tell you what changes to look out for.
When your dog is diabetic, it’s very important that they eat the same food, same amount of food, and at the same time each day.
Exercise routines must be consistent as well…same amount of exercise at the same time of the day. More or less exercise can affect blood glucose levels, as can other changes in the exercise routine.
If your dog eats canned food, your vet will probably want them to switch to a dry food. Soft moist foods cause glucose to accumulate in the body too quickly. But you’ll want to change food slowly…no sudden changes in diet.
Your vet will probably recommend a diet that consists of good quality protein with complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber, which helps slow absorption of glucose in the body.
A food like Husse’s Optimal Light is formulated to meet the needs of a diabetic dog, or any dog that is less active or overweight.
Your diabetic dog can live a very full life with minimal complications if you are diligent about controlling their blood glucose levels. This will take a commitment on your part. But as we all know, being a great dog owner means being truly committed to the love and care of our cherished companions.
Does your dog have diabetes? How have you managed their care? Share your experience in the comment section above.