Diabetes mellitus is a chronic endocrine disorder
that is quite common in dogs. It is characterized by high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) which results when the pancreas is unable to produce
enough insulin to meet the animal's requirements.
Insulin is a hormone which is needed to transport glucose (blood sugar) as well as certain amino acids and minerals through the blood to
the cells. When a lack of insulin occurs, glucose cannot move into the
cells and the glucose level in the blood rises to abnormally high
Chronic high glucose in the blood and urine can cause severe complications including infections, cataracts, diabetic ketoacidosis,
nervous system disorders, pancreatitis, and kidney disease. If left
untreated, diabetic animals will suffer from complications and an early
Causes: Diabetes is caused by several things including: genetic predisposition, infection, drugs, pancreatic disease, obesity, estrus
(heat cycles) in intact females, and concurrent illness.
Who is affected: Although males do develop diabetes, female dogs
are twice as likely to be affected by the disease. A genetic disposition
towards diabetes is suspected in breeds including the Keeshond, Pulik,
Cairn Terrier, and Miniature Pinscher. In addition, Dachshunds,
Miniature Schnauzers, Poodles, and Beagles also are frequently diagnosed
with the disease.
However, any dog can develop diabetes mellitus.
The average age range for the development of diabetes mellitus is four
to 14 years, with the majority of cases occurring at six to nine years
Symptoms: Common symptoms include excessive thirst, increased
volumes of urine, and urinary accidents. Affected dogs often have weight
loss despite an increased appetite. Other symptoms may include loss of
vision, tiredness, weakness, and poor coat condition.
Care: There is no cure for diabetes mellitus, but, as with humans,
it can be controlled with insulin injections, diet, and exercise
management. With such therapy, your dog can lead a happy, comfortable
life. Some people with diabetes can use oral hypoglycemic drugs, but
these medications typically are not helpful in dogs.
You should not breed a diabetic female. It is extremely difficult to control
diabetes during pregnancy, and may cause a life-threatening
Intact female patients should be spayed as soon as their diabetes is
stable to prevent disruption of diabetic control due to fluctuating
Once your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, its specific
insulin requirements need to be determined. As each dog's insulin needs
are unique and often vary from day to day, your dog may need to be
hospitalized to determine its specific needs. This is accomplished by
the veterinarian giving the dog an insulin injection and testing the
blood sugar levels at regular intervals throughout the day. These
results are used to determine your dog's initial insulin requirements.
Because your dog's insulin needs may change once it returns home,
periodic reevaluation over the next two weeks is recommended until
satisfactory control is achieved. Once control is achieved, further
evaluations should be completed every 2-4 months.
Initially, it may be difficult for some owners to give daily insulin injections,
but the majority of owners find it is not that difficult.
The insulin is injected just under the skin with a very fine needle and is not painful.
It is important, however, that injections be
given at the same time each day.
Prognosis: The prognosis is dependent on a number of factors. How
well the dog does will depend upon the owner's willingness to treat the
disease, the dog's ability to respond to the insulin, the age at the
onset of disease, the presence of other disorders, and the development
of complications of diabetes.
With dedicated care from the owner, recheck appointments with the
veterinarian, and a teamwork approach between the owner and the doctor,
most diabetic dogs live healthy lives for many years.
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