Diabetes is a pancreatic disorder. There are two types:
- Type 1 diabetes: the body does not produce enough insulin
- Type 2 diabetes:(more common) the body is unable to use the insulin correctly
Your dog needs insulin to absorb glucose and convert it into energy. Untreated, your dog's health will gradually decline and end in early death.
Diabetes is common in dogs that have the following combined factors:
- 6 to 9 years in age
Initial signs include:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Vomiting and dehydration
- Increased appetite with weight loss
- Hind-limb weakness: walking with hocks touching the ground (nervous system damage)
- Difficulty breathing
Advanced signs for untreated diabetes include:
- Enlarged liver
- Susceptibility to infection
- Neurological problems
To diagnose your dog with diabetes, your veterinarian will review medical history and signs. The veterinarian will also perform blood and urine tests to check glucose levels.
Most veterinarians will agree that diabetes is not curable but can be controlled by:
Change in diet:
- High in protein and low in carbohydrates: controls blood sugar and promotes weight loss in obese dogs. Obese dogs have a hard time processing insulin, making their diabetes more difficult to control
- Spread calorie intake out over a few meals rather than all at once
Insulin is used to keep the dog's blood glucose levels under control. You will be able to learn to give injections, as the insulin needles are tiny. Giving an injection is usually easier than giving a pill.
- Your veterinarian will determine the amount and frequency of insulin injections
- Follow-up visits: the dosage will be reevaluated with further blood testing
Be aware of behavioral changes that signal:
- Not enough insulin: extra drinking, eating, and urination
- Too much insulin: confusion, stumbling, and shivering
Dogs with diabetes must eat regularly to guard against insulin overdose, but be careful to control the amount of food your cat eats to prevent obesity.
While there is no way known to prevent type 1 diabetes, proper weight management can reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
The prognosis for a diabetic dog depends on your commitment to treat the disease, good communication between you and your veterinarian, and good control of the blood glucose with an appropriate diet and dose of insulin.
With a strict diet, insulin, and exercise, your dog can be happy and live a healthy life, even with diabetes.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM