Estimated Read Time: 7 ½ minutes
“Can dogs get diabetes?” The answer is “Yes!” Unfortunately, diabetes in dogs is a complicated, lifelong condition that can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms. However, a pup’s quality of life doesn’t have to diminish if proper management and care is administered and maintained by a loving pet parent…
Diabetes in dogs is when the pancreas doesn’t produce (Type 1 Diabetes) or stops producing enough of the hormone insulin, or their body stops responding adequately to it (Type 2 Diabetes). Insulin is required by the body to absorb sugars into the bloodstream after eating and transport them to the cells. Their body’s cells absolutely need glucose to function, grow and thrive.
If a dog is diabetic, this means that their body can’t control its blood sugar levels. If they get too high they enter a state of hyperglycemia where they’ll start drinking more, urinating more and have an increased appetite. This can also cause the brain to stop functioning properly leaving them at risk of seizures or a coma.
If the blood sugar levels get too low, they can enter hypoglycemia, which can also be fatal. Dogs can become wobbly, confused, start to vomit and even collapse into a coma. In a case of hypoglycaemia, they need to have something sugary rubbed into their gums as soon as possible (like honey or jam), and their vet needs to be contacted as a matter of emergency.
Diabetes in dogs can occur as young as 18 months, but it typically develops in maturer dogs between the ages of 7 and 10.
It’s estimated that around 70% of dogs with diabetes are female. Some female dogs can develop diabetes due to hormonal changes associated with coming into heat. Some also develop temporary gestational diabetes during pregnancy, which usually resolves after she has given birth.
Any breed can develop diabetes but it’s most common in Dachshunds, Cairn Terriers, Springer Spaniels, Poodles and Miniature Schnauzers. It’s least common in Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Boxers and German Shepherds.
The symptoms of diabetes in dogs include:
If the symptoms of diabetes in dogs are left untreated or aren’t properly managed, a dog can develop diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is an even more serious condition. Symptoms of DKA include:
If you see any signs of DKA, particularly if your dog has just been diagnosed with diabetes, you need to get your pooch to the vet as a matter of emergency.
If you suspect your dog may have diabetes because you’ve spotted a symptom, it’s time to make an appointment with their vet. You may be asked to collect a fresh sample of their urine to bring with you, as a diabetes diagnosis can be verified via urine samples and blood tests.
"With diabetes, there is a lack of insulin which causes sugar from the diet to build up in the blood and urine. A common presentation is a thirsty dog that appears to be losing weight despite a good appetite. Although diabetes is not a condition that can be cured, you can monitor your dog at home and the effectiveness of the insulin injections, ensuring their blood glucose levels are under control. This may entail monitoring their demeanour, water intake, body weight, urine glucose and blood glucose.
Treating and monitoring diabetes is important to prevent disease of the eye and kidney, decrease the risk of urinary tract infections, as well as life-threatening complications such as seizures and comas. So, with the help of your vet, your dog should be successfully managed by carefully coordinating feeding times, insulin injections and exercise so they can lead a happy and healthy life.”
You cannot cure diabetes in dogs or in humans, but it can certainly be managed.
Once a diabetes diagnosis has been obtained, your veterinarian will explain clearly to you how and what your dog’s treatment will involve. At first, it may require frequent visits and tests to make sure the insulin dosage is the right amount and any dietary changes being implemented are working.
In most cases, you’ll be advised to administer an insulin injection every day, twice a day at set times. These should be administered within an hour of a meal too. Your vet will show you how and where to inject your dog with their insulin. This may seem intimidating and scary at first, but the needles are so small, Fido most likely won’t even notice it’s happening. And, due to the frequency of injections required, you’ll be a pro in no time! Keep an open dialogue with your vet – if there’s anything you’re unsure of, want to go over again, or have no idea how to handle (for example, if your insulin squirts out as you inject, or your dog vomits after they eat and now their levels may be off), ask!
You’ll also most likely be advised to control their exercise amount too. Exercise uses up blood sugars, so they’ll need a set amount of exercise at set times each day. A sudden change in exercise amount or time can cause their blood sugars to spike or drop dramatically, which can be dangerous.
Diet will also play a big part in managing their diabetes. This can help keep their weight in check (which is essential for any dog, diabetic or not) and will help in regulating their blood sugar levels. Your vet will advise you on what and when to feed your dog. High fibre diets are typically advised as these can help limit blood sugar spikes, and you’ll be told to stop giving any human meal scraps to your pooch and to limit their dog treats.
You will be advised of the warning signs of their blood sugar levels changing that you need to watch out for too. If your dog is female, it will most likely be suggested that you should have her spayed (neutered) as hormonal changes that occur when bitches comes into season can have an effect on diabetes, making it more difficult to control.
Dogs with diabetes are also more prone to UTI’s (Urinary Tract Infections) and are at a heightened risk of developing cataracts. Surgical correction is available when it comes to cataracts, but most dogs adapt very well to visual impairment, as their other senses are so strong! It’s also a good idea to have your dog’s teeth regularly cleaned at the vet’s, particularly if they have diabetes as if any infections such as periodontitis or bacterial build-up poses a risk to already immunocompromised diabetic patients.
There are number of things you can do to prevent diabetes developing in dogs. Most importantly by keeping them healthy by managing their weight via a good, controlled diet of high-quality food and a healthy amount of exercise. Overweight or obese dogs are predisposed to having serious medical implications, which includes developing diabetes.
If you’re not intending to breed with your female pooch, it’s advisable to get her spayed. After a dog gives birth or finishes a heat season, the levels of the hormone progesterone in their body surges and fluctuations like this put them a heightened risk of developing diabetes.
Diabetes treatment can be very expensive, so keep an open dialogue with your vet about how you can be supported in managing payments for their insulin and appointments. Insuring your dog as soon as you get them, before the signs of any illness start is always advised as this will provide the financial support you need if a long term condition like diabetes were to arise.
If your dog develops and is diagnosed with diabetes, try not to panic. With quality veterinary support and some loving, committed pet parenting, diabetes in dogs can be managed just fine and they can live a long, happy life like any other pooch!