Diabetes in Dogs – A Guide to Understanding and Treating Your Dog

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Diabetes mellitus, commonly known by the shortened name “diabetes”, sugar diabetes or "sugar", is one of the most frequent and important medical disorders of both humans and dogs. As a pet owner with a newly diagnosed dog with diabetes, it is difficult to know what you need to do. We created this article to help you know step by step what you need to know and what you need to do and to answer common questions that come up with new diabetic dog owners.

The 6 keys to treatment of diabetes in dogs include:

  1. Change your dog's diet
  2. If your dog is overweight – help your dog lose weight
  3. Give insulin every 12 hours
  4. Monitor for response to treatment
  5. Maintain a consistent diet, exercise and insulin treatment plan
  6. Monitor for complications of the disease

We will help you understand more about diabetes, how and when to give insulin how to deal with complications. We also included answers to the most common questions diabetic dog owners have as they start their journey as a diabetic dog owner.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that leads to chronic elevation of the blood glucose or sugar. Blood sugar is maintained by a group of hormones, the most important of which is insulin, which is manufactured by the pancreas, a small organ near the intestines. Insulin lowers the blood sugar after a meal, and deficiency of insulin, or an insensitivity of body cells to available insulin, leads to diabetes.

With good care, your dog can have a very good life with diabetes. We will help tell you how.

What Dogs Get Diabetes?

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 but some breeds are at higher risk.

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 (both miniature and standard).

What Causes Canine Diabetes?

The cause of diabetes has a lot to do with genetics and bad luck. There are risk factors which can potentiate diabetes such as obesity, recurring pancreatitis, Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism), and drugs such as glucocorticoids and progestogens that antagonize insulin.

What are Common Symptoms of Diabetes?

Common symptoms of diabetes in dogs include thirst and increased water consumption among others. For more detailed information about the diagnosis, treatment and complications of diabetes, go to: Diabetes in Dogs.

Uncontrolled elevation of glucose leads to dehydration and body chemistry disorders that can eventually cause coma and death. Left uncontrolled, diabetes can become life threatening.

Why Does My Diabetic Urinate More?

When a pet is diabetic, the body tries hard to fix the problem. For example, the kidneys will try to get rid of excess glucose in the urine. To get rid of extra glucose they also end up getting rid of a lot of extra water. So they urinate more. Because they urinate more and are getting rid of a lot of extra water, they are thirsty and drink more.

Classic signs of diabetes is drinking more and urinating more. The medical term for this is polydipsia (drinking more) and polyuria (urinating more).

What Does the Term Spilling Glucose Mean?

Some clients hear their vet say this term – their dog is “spilling glucose”. This term means that their dog has glucose in the urine. This is the body's way of trying to get rid of excess glucose in the dog's blood.

How is the Diagnosis Obtained?

The first step in treating diabetes in your dog is getting a correct diagnosis. This requires a veterinary examination and appropriate tests, such as a urinalysis (to detect spilled "sugar") and blood glucose determination. Additional tests often are needed to assess the overall medical situation. Once the diagnosis is made, however, you and your veterinarian can work together to effectively control diabetes mellitus.

What Type of Diabetes Does My Dog Have?

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