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Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) in Dogs

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), the most severe form of Diabetes Mellitus, results in severe changes in blood chemicals including imbalances in small, simple chemicals known as electrolytes.

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. For more information on the basics of diabetes, go to Diabetes mellitus in dogs DKA is a life-threatening condition caused by diabetes mellitus resulting from insulin deficiency that leads to excess production of ketoacids by the liver. Subsequent changes in the blood result that includes metabolic acidosis, electrolyte abnormalities producing severe signs of systemic illness.

DKA condition can occur in pets with new diabetes or in current diabetics that decompensate. Secondary diseases and/or infections can cause diabetics to decompensate and develop DKA.

What to Watch For

Signs associated with DKA depend on the individual pet and the length of time they have been ill. Signs may consist of the classic signs of diabetes including:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Weight loss despite a good appetite
  • Sudden blindness

    Additional signs of DKA include:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Some pets will have a strong smell of acetone from their breath

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