Signs that Your Dog Might Have Diabetes
Are you worried that your dog has diabetes?
There are several signs that might clue you in that it’s time for a trip to the vet.
In this article we’ll give you a brief overview of diabetes and go over the signs that your dog may have it. But, when in doubt, it’s always best to get your veterinarian’s opinion.
What is Diabetes Really?
You may have heard of Type I and Type II diabetes in humans.
Type I usually starts in childhood and is a lifelong condition. Type II is usually late onset or can occur due to diet and/or carrying excess weight.
Both humans and dogs can suffer during pregnancy from gestational diabetes.
Dogs can have something similar to Type I or Type II diabetes as well. Your vet may refer to them as “insulin deficient” versus “insulin resistant”.
Insulin’s role in the body is to signal muscle, the liver, and fat to absorb sugar from the blood and convert it to usable energy to power the body. When the body does not accept that sugar, it leads to hyperglycemia – often referred to as “high blood sugar”.
Insulin deficient – the most common type of diabetes in dogs. The dog has a damaged pancreas that is not producing enough insulin to regulate sugars in the blood. It is a lifelong condition treated with insulin injections.
Insulin resistant – usually occurs in elderly or overweight dogs. The body’s cells are not acknowledging insulin and so they don’t draw sugar out of the blood for fuel.
Gestational diabetes - diabetes occurs during pregnancy but usually resolves after the puppies are born. Pregnant dogs with gestational diabetes must be under a vet’s care to survive – you can’t wait it out.
Hyperglycemia - high blood sugar. Hyperglycemia is the cause for many of the signs and symptoms of diabetes in dogs. However, hyperglycemia may not be related to diabetes – it might be a sign of another serious problem, illness, or injury.
Hypoglycemia - when diabetes is mismanaged and there is too much added insulin in the body and not enough food coming in, the dog can suffer from hypoglycemia which can lead to extreme lethargy, unconsciousness, and even death.
Why Diabetes is Dangerous
When blood sugar doesn’t reach the cells, the cells, in a manner of speaking, starve. To get the energy they need, they start leeching it from fat stores and muscle and the dog loses weight.
When blood sugar is too high, those sugars start chemically affecting the organs, causing damage to the heart and kidneys and even the eyes. Nerves and blood vessels are damaged as well.
In advanced cases of diabetes that has been left untreated or poorly treated, the dog may suffer from:
- Kidney Failure
- Cataracts or blindness
- Enlarged organs
Ketoacidosis and enlarged organs can become life threatening very quickly.
If your dog experiences these symptoms, get to the vet or 24 hour animal clinic right away:
- Rapid breathing
- Falling over or poor balance
- Extreme lethargy
- Sweet smelling breath
- Swollen midsection
Diabetes in dogs can be fatal if left untreated or unmanaged. See your vet right away if you think your dog may have diabetes, hyperglycemia, or hypoglycemia.
Signs and Symptoms
- Increased thirst
Is the water bowl going empty a lot more often than usual? Are you filling it up twice as often or more than usual? The kidneys are trying to rinse the sugar out of the body.
- Increased urination
If your dog begins having accidents in the house or wants to go out more often, it might have diabetes or hyperglycemia. When blood sugar rises the kidneys can’t keep up and so they expel more fluid. Don’t chastise your dog for increased accidents, it cannot prevent the body trying to rid itself of what is essentially acting as a poison in its body.
- Increased appetite
The cells are not getting enough energy from food so the appetite increases. The body think it is starving so the dog becomes very hungry and wants to eat more.
- Weight loss
Rapid or unexplained weight loss can be caused by diabetes. However, if your dog is overweight or pregnant, this may not happen or it may not be apparent. If the dog is showing other signs, take him/her to the vet.
- Loss of appetite
When diabetes advances, the dog’s appetite may actually go down. As the body reaches into the fat stores for energy ketone production goes up and that results in a loss of appetite.
- Lack of energy
The dog’s body is starved for fuel and when there is no fuel there is no energy.
Due to lack of energy and nourishment from food the dog is losing the pleasures of its life. Proper management of diabetes will probably restore the dog’s temperament.
A Diabetic Dog’s Diet
It is important to manage any dog’s diet with care but it is crucial in a dog with diabetes, hyperglycemia, or hypoglycemia.
Follow your vet’s instructions on feeding times, treating, and food amounts.
Diabetes will bring some significant life changes for your dog. As you begin to manage its diet, give the dog lots of praise and affection. Especially at times when you previously used food to bond.
Pay special attention to the ingredients in your dog’s food and treats to make sure that they are healthful and that you are giving the correct calorie amounts as instructed by your veterinarian.