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Diabetes in Dogs

By: Dr. Leah Cohn

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Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic condition in which a deficiency of the hormone insulin impairs the body's ability to metabolize sugar. It is one of the most common endocrine (hormonal) diseases of dogs.

There are two types of diabetes mellitus in dogs. Type I DM occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin. This can be the result of destruction of the cells in the pancreas that normally produce insulin. This form does not produce enough insulin and requires insulin injections to control the disease. Type II DM occurs when enough insulin is produced but something interferes with its ability to be utilized by the body. Dogs nearly always (99%) have the type I variety.

Diabetes mellitus usually affects middle-aged to older dogs of either sex, however it is most common in female dogs (twice as common in females as in males). The peak age seen in dogs is 7 to 9 years. Juvenile-onset diabetes may occur in dogs less than 1 year of age. . Any breed can be affected. Breeds at increased risk for diabetes mellitus include the Australian terrier, Samoyed, Schnauzer (miniature and standard), Bichon frise, Cairn terrier, Keeshond, Spitz, Fox terrier and the Poodle (miniature and standard).

Diabetes mellitus leads to an inability of the tissue to utilize glucose. Disease occurs from high blood sugar levels, inadequate delivery of sugar to the tissues and changes in the body metabolism.

Risk factors for diabetes mellitus include obesity, recurring pancreatitis, Cushing's disease, and drugs such as glucocorticoids and progestagens that antagonize insulin.

What to Watch For

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Weight loss despite a good appetite
  • Sudden blindness
  • Lethargy
  • Poor body condition

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