Dog diabetes is a non-curable chronic disease that requires life-long treatment. If good care is provided to the diabetic dog, it can live a normal life.
What causes diabetes in dogs
In most cases, dog diabetes is a type I diabetes. In type I diabetes, the pancreas progressively loses its ability to secret insulin because of the destruction of its βcells (see diabetes mellitus page). It results in an increase in blood and tissues glucose concentration.
The most frequent cause of diabetes in dogs is chronic pancreatitis (chronic inflammation of the pancreas). Un-spayed bitches are also at increased risk: the high doses of progesterone that are released during estrus or gestation harm pancreas βcells.
Symptoms of diabetes in dogs
Persistent high glucose in the blood, above the renal threshold, is responsible for the symptoms of diabetes (increased thirst, urination and hunger – fatigue, lethargy – cataract, blindness), and for its complications (ketoacidosis, renal disease, heart failure, Cushing’s, hypothyroidism). Diabetes diagnosis is confirmed by laboratory findings: concomitant presence of glucose in the urine and high concentration of glucose in the blood.
Dog diabetes treatment
Diabetes treatment relies on insulin injections once or twice daily. Determining the right insulin dose is often difficult as each case is different from others. The vet often starts by a standard insulin dose, and then makes changes according to the dog response to the treatment. The owner has a very active role. He/she participates in watching out and recording to the attention of the vet, the evolution of the symptoms. He/she must be especially attentive to those that signal a possibly fatal hypoglycemia. Diabetic bitches should be spayed.
Feeding a diabetic dog
Feeding is a key issue in diabetes management. Diets should aim at reaching an ideal weight defined by the vet. Typically, a diabetic dog diet contains low fat and high fiber content. But, in some cases, the dog is too lean and needs high energy content.
Synchronizing the meals and the insulin injection is critical. Dogs do have a post-prandial hyperglycemia: blood glucose peaks within the 2 hours that follow the meal ingestion. Scheduling the meals with insulin injection is essential for maintaining blood glucose levels between 100 to 250/300mg/dL.
Regular exercise plays a beneficial role by helping reduce weight in obese patients and limiting glucose toxicity. Intense and unsettled effort should be avoided because it may induce very dangerous hypoglycemic episodes.
Complications of dog diabetes
More than diabetes in itself, its complications are more worrying. The vet will conduct a thorough investigation in order to detect underlying diseases. If the dog is diagnosed soon enough and well treated, these complications can be avoided, and the dog will live a happy and normal life.
This part of the site is dedicated to informing you as completely as possible about the different issues of diabetes in dogs.