Diabetes in dogs happens when the beta cells in the pancreas begin to release less insulin, or when the action of insulin becomes less effective. In dogs, the condition is grouped into Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3. Type 1 is the most common form in dogs and is similar to Type 1 diabetes in people. These dogs require insulin injections. They are more inclined to develop dangerously high blood glucose levels, or ketoacidosis.
Type 2 diabetes in dogs is similar to Type 2 diabetes in humans, but is rare in dogs. Type 3 diabetes is somewhat like impaired glucose tolerance in people, when blood glucose levels fall somewhere between normal and diabetes. In dogs, hormone problems usually cause Type 3 diabetes. Other diseases or medication cause increases in hormones that interfere with the action of insulin - for instance, an excess of growth hormone, cortisol, steroids, or progesterone.
Some dogs are genetically inclined to developing diabetes. Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Keeshonds, and Poodles are included in this group. They may be more likely to develop a juvenile form of diabetes. Most often, it is middle-aged pets that develop diabetes. Three times as many female dogs are affected as males.
Lifestyle, genetics, or both may cause diabetes in dogs. More than one factor may be involved in the development of the disease. Insulin-dependent diabetes (the most common form) can be caused by genetic factors, a disease that inflames the pancreas, being overweight, infection, illness, or certain medications (such as glucocorticoids and megestrol acetate). You can help to prevent diabetes in your dog. Keep your pet at a normal body weight, use medications carefully based on the advice of a veterinarian, and treat illnesses as they happen.
Pet owners usually discover their dogs have diabetes after noticing they are drinking too much and passing more urine than usual. You may also note increased appetite, weight loss, and rapid development of cataracts (clouding of the lens in the eye). The link between diabetes and these changes may become more apparent as the condition progresses.
Laboratory results may show signs of dehydration, increased liver enzymes, high blood glucose, blood protein increases, and pancreatitis (an inflamed pancreas). Abnormalities in the urine system include bladder infections, and ketones and glucose in the urine.
Your goal is to eliminate symptoms of diabetes, returning the dog to a normal state. Since dogs cannot communicate how they feel throughout the day, the easiest way to control diabetes is to establish a routine for your individual pet. A schedule should be established for feeding, exercise, and timing of insulin injections. The more closely a routine is followed, the easier it will be to regulate the dog. The dog’s diet is usually changed to a low-fat, high carbohydrate and high-fiber food.
A better diet increases the action of insulin and slows the emptying of the stomach. Veterinarians usually have these foods on hand. Food composition and quantity should be identical from day to day.
Diabetes may be treated by different types of insulin, based on the individual pet. Most owners must inject their dog with insulin twice a day. Oral medication has not been shown to be very effective in dogs. A set dose of insulin is calculated to help with initial regulation. Whenever insulin therapy is started or the dose is changed, it will take five to seven days to reach equilibrium (even levels). A balance has been reached once measured blood glucose levels, taken at certain times of the day for several days, are similar from one day to the next. A glucose curve may be developed at the veterinary hospital, or at home if the owners have blood glucose monitoring equipment.
Aim to have your pet on the same routine for feeding, exercise, and insulin injections when performing the glucose curve. This is necessary since the veterinarian can only examine how the pet responds to the type and dose of insulin. Several glucose levels will be taken throughout the day to create the glucose curve. For instance, blood may be collected every two hours (the recommended time interval may vary between veterinarians). The results provide information about blood glucose levels throughout the day.
The amount or type of insulin can be changed based on how the pet is responding. Ideally, the insulin should act in the body for 10 to 12 hours if it is being given twice daily. Blood glucose levels should also remain between 6 to 11 mmol/L, or 6 to 16 mmol/L if cataracts are already present. To achieve results in this range, the dose of insulin is adjusted based on the results of the glucose curve. Taking several blood glucose level measurements throughout one day is more accurate than evaluating random blood or urine glucose. Weekly glucose curves may be done until the pet is properly regulated. After that rechecks will be based on your vet’s judgment, perhaps at one, three, six, and 12 months.
Injections are given under the skin using several different areas of the dog’s body. It may be better to change sites each time you give a shot of insulin. Appropriate sites include any loose skin folds, such as those at shoulders and hips.
It is important to monitor clinical signs (such as a decrease in the amount of water the dog drinks), and to regularly check the dog’s weight and glucose curve. Other methods of monitoring include checking levels of glucose in urine or blood. Urine or blood glucose can be measured at home with test strips. These tests can give a general idea of whether your dog is well-regulated or if a change has occurred. Fructosamine and glycosylated hemoglobin (Ghb) may also be tested. These proteins are present in the blood in proportion to blood glucose concentrations. The levels are not affected by stress, although stress can increase blood glucose levels. Blood protein levels cannot indicate underlying problems or replace glucose curves for adjusting therapy. Instead, measuring fructosamine or GHb gives an idea of the effectiveness of diabetes control over long periods of time. Fructosamine reflects control over the previous two to four weeks and GHb for the prior two to four months.
If a pet’s blood glucose is too low, corn syrup on the gums can help until you can get veterinary attention. Signs that blood sugar is too low include weakness, wobbly legs, and seizures. Monitor your dog’s condition regularly and approach your veterinarian with any questions.
Diabetes is manageable in dogs, although the disease will likely require lifelong therapy with insulin. Remember, your dog’s quality of life can be maintained. Even dogs who have developed cataracts can lead good lives as long as the furniture is rearranged! Surgery to remove the cataract and put in a new lens is available from veterinary ophthalmologists. Periodic checkups are recommended to help you take good care of your pet while regulating the diabetes.