What is Diabetes?

Diabetes in Dogs is a metabolism disorder which prevents the muscles and organs from converting glucose to energy and will result in excessive amounts of glucose in the blood, which is also referred to as hyperglycemia.

What is Metabolism and how does it work?

Metabolism is process of converting food nutrients into energy for the organs to consume and function.

Two Important Factors in Metabolism and Diabetes are:

  1. Glucose: When the body digests food, it breaks down some part of the food into glucose which is energy for body cells and organs to consume and power them.
  2. Insulin: Insulin is released by the pancreas. Insulin tells body cells and organs to capture glucose and nutrients flowing in the body and use them as energy.

Role of Glucose and Insulin in Diabetes:

When glucose and insulin does not work optimally or when the balance gets disturbed, diabetes happens.

Diabetes can be triggered in two ways:

  1. Insulin Deficiency Diabetes: When the body does not create enough insulin in the body for the body cells to absorb and use as energy, insulin deficiency happens. This generally happens when the pancreas is not functioning properly. This is the most common reason for diabetes in dogs.
  2. Insulin Resistance Diabetes: When the body cells can't receive the signals to absorb glucose in the bloodstream as a result does not get appropriate energy in body cells or organs to function properly. This results in the body using its own fats and proteins to use as an alternative fuel. This condition happens in fat or obese dogs.

In either case, there is excess glucose in the bloodstream in the body since cells are not absorbing glucose. High glucose in the bloodstream leads to high blood sugar levels in the body.

Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs?

Early signs of Diabetes:

  • Excessive urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss in spite of normal or increase appetite
  • Increase blood glucose
  • Glucose in urine

Later signs/ Advanced signs of Diabetes:

  • Complete loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Cataract which can lead to blindness
  • Weight loss
  • Infections which recur

Diagnosis of Diabetes in Dogs

Diagnosis of diabetes can only be determined after a blood test and urine test which tells glucose levels in blood and glucose level in urine. Your vet will check the blood sugar reports and urine reports and will suggest the treatment or diabetes management plan.

Before Meal or After MealSugar levels
Normal Sugar level before meal80 to 120 mg/dl
Normal Sugar level after meal250 to 300 mg/dl
Diabetes Sugar level after meal400 mg/dl and above
Extreme Sugar level after meal800 mg/dl and above
Diabetes Sugar levels before or after meal in dogs

Treatment of Diabetes in Dogs

Once the vet determines sugar levels in the dog, he will create a diabetes management plan which will constitute of following factors:

  • Diet: Your vet will prepare a diet plan for your dog which will mostly constitute of low-fat content. It will have fiber and complex carbohydrates that will help in slow absorption of glucose.
  • Exercise: Daily moderate exercise will be recommended to keep a check on blood glucose rise.
  • Injections: Vet might recommend a daily insulin injection which will be required to be administered daily by the pet parent.

How to Prevent Diabetes in Dogs?

  • Age: Diabetes can occur to any dog at any age but generally after the age of 5 yrs, dogs have a higher probability of testing positive for diabetes.
  • Gender: Unspayed female dogs are twice as likely as male dogs to have diabetes.
  • Weight: If the dog is obese then there are more chances of a dog having insulin-resistant diabetes.
  • Steroid medications. Steroids cause diabetes when used long-term.
  • Auto-Immune Diseases. Some autoimmune disorders can trigger diabetes.
  • Genes. Just like in humans, dogs with an ancestral history of diabetes are more at risk of becoming diabetic at some age of their life.

Which dogs are more prone to Diabetes?

Small dogs are at greater risk of getting diabetes than bigger dog breeds:

  • Poodles
  • Pugs
  • Samoyeds
  • Beagles
  • Australian Terriers
  • Fox Terriers
  • Cairn Terriers and others.

Reference: https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/diabetes-pets