Type 1 diabetes in dogs is most often the result of a dog’s body making too little insulin. Much less commonly, dogs may develop Type 2 diabetes in which their bodies don’t process insulin properly.
Insulin affects how your dog’s body uses food. When your dog eats, food is broken down into very small components his body can use. One component, carbohydrates, are converted into several types of simple sugars, including glucose.
Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the blood, where it travels to cells throughout the body. Inside cells, insulin helps turn glucose into fuel. If there’s too little insulin available, glucose can’t enter cells and can build up to a high concentration in the bloodstream. As a result, a diabetic dog may seem hungry constantly, but will lose weight because his cells can’t absorb glucose.
Types of Dog Diabetes
Diabetes Mellitus – This is a disease of the pancreas. In simple terms, it is caused by the failure of the pancreas to regulate blood sugar.
Diabetes Insipidus – This is a weak or watery form of diabetes. Although it may cause increased drinking and urination, it is unrelated to elevated blood sugar or a lack of insulin. It is a rare condition in dogs and can only be definitively diagnosed after extensive testing.
Diabetes Risk Factors for Dogs
Genetic predisposition – certain breeds are more prone to diabetes
Middle-aged to older female dogs
Unspayed females may develop Type 2 diabetes; spaying will often result in resolution of the diabetes
If you think your dog may be at risk, have your dog checked for diabetes by your veterinarian.
Diagnosis and Detection
Diabetes is one of many conditions that can affect your dog and cause visible changes in behavior and other signs. That’s why it is important that your dog be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian at least once a year or more frequently, if your veterinarian advises.
Canine Diabetes Symptoms
Knowing the signs of diabetes is the first step in protecting your dog’s health. If any of these statements describes your pet, speak with your veterinarian about the possibility of diabetes:
Drinks more water than usual (polydipsia)
Urinates more frequently, produces more urine per day, or has “accidents” in the house (polyuria)
Always acts hungry (polyphagia), but maintains or loses weight
Has cloudy eyes, cataracts or appears to suddenly lose vision
When evaluating your dog for diabetes, your veterinarian may ask about these signs and will check your dog’s general health to rule out the possibility of other conditions or infections. In addition, your veterinarian will test your dog’s urine for the presence of glucose and ketones and, if indicated, will then measure your dog’s blood glucose concentration. A diagnosis of diabetes only becomes definite when glucose is found in the urine and at a persistently high concentration in the blood.
After the Diagnosis
It can initially be overwhelming when your dog is diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that you can manage successfully and your veterinarian can help. Once the diagnosis has been made, ask your veterinarian to schedule a specific “diabetes appointment” during which you can discuss all of your questions or concerns. During this appointment, make sure to address the following topics:
Diet – Determine the best type of food for your dog. This is also the perfect time to address weight loss if your dog is overweight or obese
Insulin – How to store and administer it properly
Hypoglycemia – How to identify and treat potentially life-threatening low blood sugar
At-home monitoring you should perform and when you should alert your veterinarian
Recommended veterinary rechecks