Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

There are a few illnesses and diseases that both humans and dogs can have, and diabetes is one of them. Diabetes will dramatically alter the way your dog eats, and what you might need to do to help keep them healthy.

There is a lot of information available out there about diabetes, but you might not know where to start. Here’s a little more information about diabetes that can help you and your dog along this journey.

So, what is diabetes?

Diabetes is a medical condition where the body cannot use glucose properly. The levels of glucose in the body are controlled by insulin, which is a hormone created in the pancreas.

As food is broken down in the body, one of the things food is broken down into is simple sugars – including glucose. The sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, and insulin is required for moving the glucose from the bloodstream into your cells.

Dog with Diabetes

If the body doesn’t have enough insulin or cannot use the insulin produced, then the glucose will sit in the bloodstream which causes blood sugar levels to increase. If the level of glucose in the blood reaches a certain level, it will overflow into the urine and bring large amounts of water with it. This is called glucosuria[1], and it is why diabetic pets drink a lot of water and urinate frequently.

For humans, they are diagnosed with either Type I or Type II but with pets it’s a little different. Dogs can be diagnosed with Type I or Type II, but the difference between the two in dogs can be a little bit more difficult to determine.

Is your dog at risk for diabetes?

Just like humans, diabetes in dogs can happen at almost any age although the most common age for diagnosis is between 7 and 10 years old. What is interesting is that female dogs are almost twice as likely to have diabetes as male dogs, and certain breeds tend to be more susceptible to having diabetes.

Additional Risk Factors

While genetics certainly play a role in determining the likeliness of your dog having diabetes, there are other additional risk factors. One of the biggest factors is obesity: if your dog is overweight or significantly overweight then they could be more at risk for developing diabetes.

Another risk factor is age. As your dog ages, they could develop other conditions or illnesses that can further lead to diabetes. These conditions include things like heart disease, kidney disease, skin infections and urinary tract infections. Further, using certain medications – like corticosteroids – long term can be a risk factor for developing diabetes.

Older dogs are at a greater risk of diabetes

Older dogs are at a greater risk of diabetes

What are the signs of diabetes in your dog?

Since our dogs can’t talk to us and tell us they aren’t feeling well, they have to rely on us to monitor them and notice if something is wrong. Some of the symptoms or signs that your dog might be diabetic are

Excessive Water Consumption

Some dogs drink more than others, naturally, but if your dog is drinking more water than normal for them then it is important to monitor them further.

Frequent Urination

Is your dog asking to go outside more or maybe have some accidents in the house? Frequent urination, in combination with excessive water drinking, can be a sign of diabetes.

Unexplained Weight Loss

If your dog is eating normally – or maybe even more than normal – but seems to have quick and unexpected weight loss this is definitely something to look into.

Frequent Infections

This can include skin or urinary tract infections. If your dog hasn’t experienced these regularly before, and now they’re recurring it can be a sign that something is wrong.

Cloudy Eyes

This is a symptom that is fairly unique to dogs with diabetes. If your dog has always had clear eyes, and now they appear cloudy you might want to get them checked out.

 

How is diabetes diagnosed?

Your vet will look for a couple things when examining your dog: hyperglycemia and glocosuria. If these two items are frequently occurring in your dog they may be able to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes.

Your vet might run additional tests – depending on the age of your dog and other risk factors – including a urinary test to rule out of urinary tract infection.

My dog was diagnosed with diabetes, now what?

When your vet has confirmed that your dog does, in fact, have diabetes there will be a few adjustments for the whole house. Your vet will prescribe the right course of treatment for your dog. Each dog will be slightly different in their needs, so the treatment will be designed just for your dog to keep them as healthy as possible.

In addition to a medical prescription, your vet may suggest some dietary changes for your dog. There could be special kibble for your dog, and human food they should especially avoid. Your vet will discuss the best course of action for your dog with you.

After the diagnosis, you will want to still monitor your dog. You will need to have regular examinations at the vet’s office, blood tests, urine tests and weight monitoring. You will also probably have to monitor their eating and drinking habits to make sure they are back to normal.

How will my dog’s life change?

A dog that has been diagnosed with diabetes can live a very happy and fulfilling life. With some minor adjustments and regular monitoring you will still be able to fully enjoy many years with your pup.

Regular Exercise

If your dog didn’t experience regular exercise with you previously, this will become an integral part of your daily routine. Your vet can give you recommendations on the type, frequency, and length of exercise recommended for your dog based on factors like age, weight, and overall general health.

Regular exercise can be good for dogs with diabetes

Regular exercise can be good for dogs with diabetes

Being Spayed

If your dog is female and you haven’t spayed her yet, when she is diagnosed with diabetes you may want to consider spaying her.

Diet Changes

Your vet may recommend some changes to your dog’s diet, including switching to a high-fiber food.

Administering Medication

Since your dog will now require daily medication it is really important to keep a schedule and routine for this medication. Too much or too little insulin can be incredibly harmful for your dog, so whatever dosage and schedule your vet prescribes should be adhered to as best as possible.

Your vet may be able to give you the tools and information so you can monitor your dog’s blood and urinary sugar levels at home so you don’t have to bring your dog in as frequently to the vet’s office.

Managing Diabetes in Your Dog

As much as you might be sure you’re doing the right thing for your dog, sometimes managing diabetes is hard. Situations like an insulin overdose are very real, and could happen to your dog. Your dog could also have too little insulin in their body, even with regular medication being administered at the right time.

If your dog is showing any of the signs of incorrect insulin dosage, you need to contact your vet’s office immediately to determine the next steps. Symptoms to watch out for include

  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Loss of appetite

Long-Term Medical Conditions

For dogs who have diabetes, they can develop other conditions and medical issues long-term. Some of them include

  • Cataracts
  • Hind leg weakness due to low level of potassium in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Urinary tract infections

Cataracts in a dog's eyes

Where do I find more information?

You probably have a lot of questions about your dog living with diabetes, and that’s completely understandable – it’s new to everyone and you might not be sure how to proceed to make sure your dog stays healthy.

You did the right thing by taking your dog to the vet and showing your concern that something isn’t right. When your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, your vet is going to the absolute best source of information. Your vet can answer all the questions you might have, and if they can’t then they can refer you to specialists who can. They want to see your dog healthy and happy, too.

Having a dog that was diagnosed with diabetes can be really scary, and you might feel very overwhelmed with what comes next for them. Hearing about insulin injections and dietary changes can be too much coming at you all at once.

With regular check-ups at your veterinarian’s office and following the dosage recommendations your vet gives you can keep your dog healthy for years to come. You might also find that you enjoy your time together with a little more with frequent walks and playing more outside.

Like any other medical condition, it’s important to keep an eye on your pet’s general behaviors. No one wants to see their pet unhealthy or unhappy and living their very best life. We will do anything we can to keep them with us for as long as possible, so if you have any questions about your dog living with diabetes you can reach out to your vet.

 

References

[1]https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/diabetes-pets

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