What Causes Diabetes In Dogs – All You Need To Know About Canine Diabetes


What Causes Diabetes In Dogs – All You Need To Know About Canine Diabetes

Canine Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a disease resulting from a deficiency of insulin, which causes a decreased tolerance to carbohydrates (sugars). Insulin is a hormone secreted by special cells in the pancreas, which is responsible for the proper metabolism of all body tissues. Without proper insulin levels, serious changes occur within the body that will eventually lead to coma and death.

It is a common problem in both cats and dogs.

Although the exact cause of diabetes mellitus is not known, several factors are known to be involved, including genetics, diet, obesity, age, and complications from injury and illness.


Symptoms Of Diabetes:

Symptoms commonly seen with diabetes are:

  • Excess water consumption; thirst
  • Excess urine production
  • Weight loss
  • Poor skin and hair coat
  • Liver disease
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness in the rear legs
  • Dehydration
  • Prone to bacterial infections
  • Blindness (cataract formation)
  • Kidney failure

In unregulated cases of diabetes, a life-threatening disease known as keto-acidosis can develop. This occurs due to the dog’s body utilizing fat as an energy source, instead of glucose (sugar). As the fats are metabolized, ketones are formed, resulting in high ketone levels in both the blood and the urine.

Keto-acidosis results in extreme lethargy, vomiting and a lack of appetite. This is an emergency situation when it occurs and will require intensive treatment by your dog’s veterinarian, including fluid therapy, insulin treatment, and correction of electrolyte balances.


Diagnosis Of Diabetes:

Your dog’s veterinarian will need to examine your dog and perform some routine blood and urine tests in order to diagnose diabetes. These tests are also necessary to rule out other disease conditions which can cause similar symptoms.

Specialized blood tests may be necessary both to diagnose diabetes and to monitor the progress of treatment.

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Treatment Of Diabetes:

Despite extensive research (especially in the field of human medicine), there is no known cure. Therefore, once it has been diagnosed, all medical attempts are to control the disease.

This usually involves daily administration of insulin for the remainder of the dog�s life.

The oral medications frequently used for people are often not effective in animals, although they may be tried in some cases.

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Once properly regulated, the majority of diabetic dogs can maintain normal lives.

Home care involves daily administration of insulin and feeding a well-regulated high quality diet.  A high-protein, low-carbohydrate commercial food should be fed at a constant time and quantity level. The amount of food ingested will affect the amount of insulin required.

The diabetic dog should be fed twice daily, or in small multiple feedings to coincide with the peak insulin levels. Constant moderate exercise is important to properly maintain the daily insulin requirement.

For female diabetic dogs, ovariohysterectomy (spaying) should be performed as soon as possible due to complicated interactions between insulin and the female hormones secreted by the ovaries.

During the first few weeks of treatment, several consultations and blood and urine tests with your dog’s veterinarian may be necessary to properly regulate the patient to insulin therapy. Changes in insulin dosage, the frequency of injection, diet, or exercise may be required.

Notify your dog’s veterinarian if any of the following complications occur:

  • You are unable to administer the medication as directed.
  • Your dog develops weakness or fatigue after exercise, begins to shake or tremble, or seems mentally confused. These symptoms may be the result of a low blood sugar. This may result from refusal to eat, sudden vigorous exercise, or from vomiting of the most recent meal. Excessive insulin dosage may also cause these problems. Giving several tablespoons of corn syrup, Karo syrup or honey may control the low blood sugar episodes.
  • Your dog experiences difficulty breathing, weakness, depression, or will not eat.
  • Your dog develops diarrhea or vomits.
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Home Care For Dogs With Diabetes:

There is no cure for diabetes. Treatment will be required for the rest of your dog�s life. It is important you understand your role in therapy to ensure success.

  • Exercise: Allow your dog to determine how active he/she will be. The important key to remember is to be consistent every day. Heavy exercise affects blood sugar and insulin requirements. If you allow your dog to run around for many hours over the weekend when he/she normally sleeps all day, you may find it extremely difficult and frustrating to determine the correct insulin dosage from day to day. On the other hand, consistent amounts of exercise make this task much easier to accomplish.
  • Diet: Normally, the body monitors the amount of sugar in the blood at each moment and determines how much insulin the pancreas should produce. Since you can only �guess� the amount of blood sugar based upon glucose measurements, you must carefully regulate how much sugar your dog receives. This is where most dog owners have the greatest problem.Your dog’s veterinarian may advise a special food. Follow any feeding instructions from your veterinarian closely. Generally, your dog should receive a small meal (1/3 daily amount) in the morning and the main meal 6-8 hours later, unless your dog’s veterinarian advises otherwise. There absolutely cannot be any snacks, biscuits, or people food at other times. If you waver or deviate from this feeding regimen, you may upset your dog’ internal metabolism by failing to regulate the blood sugar. Adherence to this program will make controlling your dog�s disease much more successful.
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  • Urine test: Your dog’s veterinarian may ask you to test your dog’s urine every morning. Urine glucose test strips can be purchased at any pharmacy. If your dog is a male dog, this is very simple because of his urinating habits. For a female dog, you may find it useful to fashion a long stick with a small cup on the end to �catch� a urine sample as she squats. If you find that the glucose is consistently at 3-4+ on the test strip, notify your dog’s doctor.
  • Insulin: Your dog’s veterinarian will instruct you on the proper use of the syringes and medication.


Occasionally, complications arise in diabetic animals:

The most serious is insulin over-dosage. The signs are weakness & occasionally seizures. Keep Karo syrup on hand. If only weakness is observed, give 2-3 tablespoons per 10 pounds of body weight and offer food. If seizures or collapse occurs, massage Karo syrup onto your dog�s gums and call your dog’s veterinarian immediately. Do not force an unconscious animal to swallow the syrup.

Another problem occurs if your dog is sick from some other illness and does not eat for a day. If your dog is not eating and not feeling well, contact your dog’s veterinarian. If your dog is not eating, do not administer insulin.

Finally, if your dog jumps during the injection, or if you accidentally push the needle all the way through the skin so that some of the insulin is �lost,� or if you are not sure whether your dog received the total dose, do not repeat the injection or try to supplement with additional insulin. There is more danger from too much insulin than not enough.

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