What is Canine Diabetes?
Diabetes in pets, just as it is in humans, is on the rise. In Canada, an average clinic will diagnose 4 out of 500 dogs with canine diabetes. This number may be higher due to non-diagnosed animals! (Source: Ipsos Survey 2008)
Diabetes mellitus or “sugar diabetes” is caused by a lack of available insulin in your pet’s body due to insufficient production by the pancreas, or failure of the body cells to respond to insulin, or both.
In a healthy dog, food is broken down during digestion into nutrients that can be used by the body. Carbohydrates (starches) are converted into sugars, including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood and provides the body cells with energy. Insulin transfers the glucose from the bloodstream to the body cells - but this can only occur if enough insulin is present in sufficient quantities. In a dog with diabetes, the pancreas, a special gland situated near the intestines produces insufficient insulin for this to occur, resulting in blood glucose concentrations that exceed the “glucose threshold” of the kidneys.
When this happens the excess glucose is excreted in the urine, causing your dog to drink and urinate more. And because this energy source is being lost, your dog may eat more than normal, but still lose weight.
Signs of Canine Diabetes?
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Increased appetite with weight loss
- Weakness and lethargy
- Lowered resistance to infection - especially urinary tract infection
- Cloudy eyes or vision loss
- Deterioration of the quality of your dog’s coat
Although diabetes most typically occurs in middle-aged to older dogs, a pet that is overweight has a higher chance of becoming diabetic. Middle-aged females are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop the disease than male dogs.
Pet owners are encouraged to spay their female dogs to reduce overpopulation, but spaying your pet may also lower her chances of developing diabetes by lowering the progesterone in her body. Also, certain other drugs, including cortisone-type (corticosteroid) medications may trigger diabetes in dogs. Pet owners should always ask their veterinarian about possible side-effects, especially if their pet may be more prone to developing diabetes.
Risk factors include obesity, whether your female pet is spayed, your dog’s age and breed, and what medications your pet may be on.
Prevention through early diagnosis is the best treatment you can give to your pet
Although diabetes in dogs can occur in any breed, there are some breeds that appear to have an increased risk of developing diabetes*:
*These are dog breeds in which veterinarians most commonly diagnose diabetes. Reports may be biased due to breed popularity. Pedigree analysis has, however, identified a genetic predisposition in Keeshounds and Samoyeds.
Diagnosis of diabetes mellitus
If you suspect your dog may be suffering from, or may be predisposed to developing diabetes, take your pet to your veterinarian for a general examination. Symptoms of diabetes mellitus can also be seen in other conditions and infections, and some diseases can be obstacles to treatment. Early screening and a confirmed diagnosis is essential to establishing the right care.
Your veterinarian will check your dog’s general health to rule out the presence of other diseases and/or infections. He or she will also conduct the following tests:
- Urine samples (To determine if there is glucose in the urine and/or a urinary tract infection.)
- Blood samples (To confirm the diagnosis and determine the blood glucose concentration in your dog’s blood. If the blood glucose concentration is consistently higher than normal, it may indicate that your dog’s pancreas is not secreting insulin.)
Long-term complications of diabetes are a result of prolonged high blood glucose.
The most common complication of canine diabetes is diabetic cataracts. A cataract is when the lens of the eye becomes opaque, blindness results in the affected eye or eyes. If a cataract is present the lens of the eye can be removed surgically to restore vision. Control of high blood glucose concentrations should help prevent, or even delay, the onset of diabetic cataracts.
If left untreated, canine diabetes can also cause kidney damage, recurring infections and even death.
Sometimes canine diabetes progresses so slowly symptoms can be missed. If left undetected, your pet can become very sick, very suddenly, which is why this disease is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer.”
A diagnosis of diabetes sounds frightening, but it doesn’t have to be. Although it is a serious condition, diabetic dogs can enjoy a good quality of life for many years. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical for stopping the signs of diabetes mellitus, and to prevent further complications from developing.
You can successfully manage your diabetic dog’s health with insulin therapy, proper diet and exercise.
The majority of dogs with diabetes mellitus, just like humans, will need insulin injections once or twice a day. Your doctor will determine the dose that’s right for your dog and teach you everything you need to know about administering the injection and monitoring your dog’s blood glucose (sugar) level.
- Hyperglycaemia indicates a high level of blood sugar
- Hypoglycaemia indicates a low level of blood sugar
Based on blood and urine glucose levels, your vet will adjust the dose until the correct dose is established. This time period can vary from 1 week to 1 or 2 months.
Administering insulin to your dog
|| Step 1
• Gently mix the insulin by inverting the bottle a few times.
• Fill the syringe slightly past the recommended dose.
• Remove any small air bubbles by tapping the syringe with your finger.
• Depress the plunger up to the correct dose of insulin for your dog.
• Draw your dog’s skin gently upwards and make a small hollow with your index finger.
• Place the needle in the hollow and push it gently through the skin.
• Rotate injection sites on each side of and along the spine.
This will avoid fibrosis and decreased insulin absorption.
• After inserting the needle, release the skin and depress the plunger slowly.
Living with your diabetic pet
Following a regular routine, as recommended by your veterinarian, is vital for successful diabetes management.
Monitoring your pet’s blood glucose level
You may be asked by your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s clinical signs as well as to regularly checking the glucose concentrations in urine and/or blood samples using a handheld glucose meter. Based on your findings, your veterinarian will be able to make the right decision about the insulin dose your dog is receiving (increase, decrease or maintain). It may help to chose one insulin caregiver per household and/or to mark on a calendar when to give the injection and whether it has been given or not.
Your pet will need insulin for the rest of his or her life, but this does not mean that you both will not be able to enjoy a good quality of life.
Nutrition and diet
As well as a strict regimen of insulin therapy, your diabetic dog will also require a consistent feeding schedule. Your veterinarian will most likely recommend a diet that is higher in fiber and complex carbohydrates. Always ask your veterinarian before making any change to your diabetic pet’s diet.
Regular exercise is important for diabetic dogs as it utilises energy and helps to avoid hyperglycaemia. In addition, exercise may improve insulin absorption.
Work together with your veterinarian to come up with a healthy exercise regime that suits your dog – and suits your lifestyle.
Visit cat-dog-diabetes.com and caninsulin.ca for more information.