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Diabetes in Dogs

By: Dr. Leah Cohn

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Important symptoms of DM include increased thirst (polydipsia) and increased urination (polyuria). These are often the most prominent symptoms of diabetes mellitus, also known as sugar diabetes. Frequently there is weight loss despite a good appetite. Several other diseases can also cause increased thirst and urination. These diseases include:

  • Kidney failure that results in an inability to concentrate the urine

  • Hormone disturbances, including excess or deficient steroid hormones (hyperadrenocorticism and hypoadrenocorticism), deficient anti-diuretic hormone (diabetes insipidus or water diabetes) and excess thyroid hormone

  • Liver failure and certain cancers that prevent the kidneys from concentrating urine

  • A urinary tract infection can lead to increased frequency of urination and uncontrollable urination in inappropriate locations. Urinary tract infections often accompany DM because bacteria live well in the sugary, diluted urine.

  • Weight loss while having a good appetite can be observed with intestinal disease, digestive enzyme failure, kidney disease, excess thyroid hormone or cancers.

    Concurrent complications and conditions often found in diabetic patients include:

  • Urinary tract infection due to diluted, sugar-containing urine

  • Infections in other parts of the body, including the gums

  • Acidosis (low blood pH) due to the production of ketones as the body tries to provide energy for the tissues in the absence of appropriate glucose (sugar) metabolism. Ketones are formed from fatty acids when the body believes it is starving.

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis, the most severe form of DM, results in severe changes in blood chemicals including imbalances in small, simple chemicals known as electrolytes.

  • Cataract formation because of the abnormal accumulation of sugars in the lens of the eye. Although treatment of DM will not reverse cataract formation, surgical therapies for cataracts are an option.

  • Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, can occur in the same organ that makes insulin. Occasionally, severe, repeated bouts of pancreatitis can damage the organ and cause DM, but pancreatitis can also occur in animals that already have DM. Pancreatitis ranges from a mild "belly ache" to a life-threatening disorder, with vomiting being the most common clinical sign.

  • Hyperadrenocorticism, an excess of steroid hormones, may accompany and complicate DM in older dogs. It is not caused by DM, but left untreated it complicates the therapy of DM.

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