“The Main Goal of Dog Diabetes Treatment is to Avoid its Dangerous Complications”

Diabetes complications are diseases that are the direct consequences of diabetes. The development of complications can be slowed down, stopped or even reversed by improving the treatment of diabetes.

This is very different from concurrent diseases (comorbidities), that happens at the same time as diabetes, but where the relationships between the diseases are not well established.

In diabetes, complications are often more harmful than the disease itself and may even be lethal in the case of ketoacidosis, the most dangerous of them all.


It is the most severe complication of diabetes.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) consists of an excessive amount of ketones in the blood. DKA occurs inevitably if diabetes is not well controlled or not treated. DKA results from an excess or ketones in the blood. Ketones are a result the metabolic process of using fat as the source of energy when glucose is made unavailable. In the case of diabetes, insulin is either missing or made ineffective because of insulin resistance mechanisms. As a result, the cells use fat for their energy source and therefore produce ketones.

Ketones accumulation in large amounts in the blood increases blood osmolarity and causes important water and electrolytes leaks in the urine. The classical signs of diabetes (unexplained weight loss, increased thirst, increased urination, increased hunger, fatigue, lethargy, unkempt hair coat), are the coupled with those of diabetic ketoacidosis, of greater concern: dehydration, depression, weakness, tachypnea, vomiting, and sometimes a strong odor of acetone odors from the dog’s mouth.
Ketoacidosis can be easily detected in urine by dipping in dedicated sticks (e.g. Ketostix).

DKA is a very severe condition that requires emergency care, and you will have to seek vet advice. Treatment includes fluid therapy for the most severely ill dogs and insulin for normalizing blood glucose. In addition, you vet may also choose to prescribe bicarbonate.

Curing a diabetic ketoacidosis is a difficult challenge because of the difficulty to restore dog’s electrolytic balance. Failure and death may occur in a significant minority of animals.


Eye damages

The most common complication of diabetes concern the eyes.
A cataract is a cloudiness or opacity in the normally transparent crystalline lens of the eye. This cloudiness can cause a decrease in vision and may lead to eventual blindness. Fortunately, it can be treated by surgery, and many of the dogs recover vision.

A glaucoma is characterized by high intraocular pressure. It leads to optic nerve lesion and eventually to permanent vision loss.
Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea. The uvea gathers the middle layers of the eye. The uvea includes the iris, the choroid, and the ciliary body. This zone is highly vascularized, and therefore very exposed to the large amounts of glucose brought by the blood of a diabetic animal.


Increased vulnerability to infection

High sugar levels in the blood and in tissues promote rapid bacteria growth, thus making it more difficult for the organism to fight against infections. Moreover, hyperglycemia weakens the immune system.

In dogs, these infections affect mainly the skin, the lungs and the bladder. They should be diagnosed and treated earlier for maximizing the anti-infectives efficacy.


Weakened immune system

Hyperglycemia both reduces the function of immune cells and increases inflammation.


Adverse effects of diabetes treatment: hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia occurs when blood glucose drops to below 60mg/dL. It is a severe condition that demands special attention because if not handled correctly, it can lead to the death of the animal.
Hypoglycemia is the result of the treatment. Either too high dose of insulin has been injected, and the down regulation of the blood glucose is too marked. Or the dog has not eaten enough of its ration for compensating insulin hypoglycemic effect.

The symptoms range from mild to very severe, they mostly are nervous in origin:

  • Signs of hunger
  • Increasing anxiety
  • Shivering
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Unstable locomotion
  • Muscle twitching
  • Stumbling or sinking of the rear legs
  • Seizures or coma

In all cases, you will have to feed the dog with a high-sugar treat that is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, generally in syrup or liquid form. It will restore higher blood sugar level. You do not need your pet to swallow the food. The sugar will pass directly in the blood through the dog’s cheek or gum. You will also record the symptoms to inform your vet.

In the more severe cases or if the mild symptoms persist, you will have to call your vet with no delay. If she is not available, do not hesitate to contact a veterinary emergency service.

Untreated diabetes necessarily leads to complications. They are dangerous and sometimes lethal. This article describes the symptoms and the treatments.
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