When our bodies don't produce insulin, the glucose we ingest is not digested and regulated by our organs. This is called diabetes. And it affects our canine friends too!

Diabetes affects humans and their best friends as well

Let's explore what causes diabetes, learn how to spot the signs in dogs, and above all, learn how to avoid this disease.

Causes of diabetes

In dogs, diabetes can be due to hormones, genes or sometimes because of medication. Nevertheless, the largest percentage of diabetic dogs are so because of what they eat. Diabetes also most often appears after the age of five, and usually prolonged poor dietary conditions.

An unhealthy diet, being overweight, or even obesity are the main causes of diabetes in dogs. When a dog eats more that what they're supposed to, their pancreas works more than it is supposed to in order to regulate the glucose intake. One day, your dog's pancreas might not be able to keep up and produce enough insulin (or any at all!) to regulate the body. Your dog's brain might also become resistant to insulin. Another sign of diabetes and health problems to come. This is just one of the reasons why we shouldn't feed our dogs tidbits or our leftovers!

Is my dog diabetic? Spot the symptoms

When your dog's blood glucose level is too often above normal limits, the excess glucose will pass into their urine. Your dog will start peeing more often to eliminate the glucose and indeed, drink a lot to stay hydrated.

Symptoms of canine diabetes

  • Frequent urination
  • Frequent thirst/drinking
  • Excessive appetite and less able to judge when enough is enough
  • Strong to severe lack of energy
  • Sudden weight loss, even though they eat more

Diagnosis

If you notice one or several of these signs, consult your vet straight away. To check your dog's insulin levels, they will likely carry out blood and urine tests to measure the glucose levels. They will also measure the ketone level in the urine, as this is toxic to the body.

It is essential to consult a vet as soon as you spot any symptoms to avoid the situation getting worse, which it will if left untreated. Dogs who don't receive adequate care will suffer enormously. An excessive amount of ketone in the urine can also lead to death from metabolic acidosis.

Additionally, long-lasting hyperglycaemia (meaning when the blood glucose level is above the limit for too long) can lead to vision troubles such as cataracts. Cataracts cause a crystalline-like lens over the eye that becomes opaque, blinding the dog.

Treatment

Following a diagnosis of canine diabetes, your vet will set up a treatment according their weight, diet, physical activity and efficiency of their pancreas. The treatment won't cure the diabetes, however it will allow your dog to live a normal life through artificial insulin intake.

Treatment typically consists of daily insulin shots under the dog's skin. They must be done at regular hours, just before feeding time, unless otherwise directed by your vet.

In addition to any treatments, you will need to adapt your dog's diet. A high fibre, high protein diet is usually recommended by vets, although they will also specify the right kind of food for your specific dog. Sugar is a no-no!

If your dog is overweight, you will be advised to put them on a diet that will help them to shed their extra kilos. It's also vital to incorporate regular physical activity.

Often, vets will recommend non-neutered female dogs be sterilised. Progesterone (the hormone secreted during menstrual cycles) has an impact on insulin levels, therefore neutering the dog will help to neutralise this.

Risk prevention

Fundamentally, ensuring your dog has a healthy quality of life is the most important consideration in helping to ward off any potential diseases or ailments. A good diet tailored to their size, breed, physical condition and environment will be key. And don't forget exercise! Naturally, sweet treats shouldn't be given to our pets so keep these aside and devour at your own rate (but not too quickly for you either!).

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