Canine diabetes is one of the major dog health problems, caused due to improper insulin production or insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone, secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas, responsible for maintaining the blood glucose level. Insulin causes the body's cells to take up glucose from the blood to be used as a source of energy. When the body produces very little or no insulin (type 1 diabetes), the body's cells fail to take up glucose from the blood. In another case, when the body's cells are resistant to insulin (type 2 diabetes), they fail to use sugar from the blood and hence, sugar remains in the blood stream. In both the cases, the result is increase in the blood sugar level or hyperglycemia. Majority of the dogs suffer from diabetes mellitus.
This illness is more common in obese dogs; in addition, genetic and environmental factors are also an added factor. Many a time, viral infections, a low immune system, pancreatic infections, and other hormonal disorders form a basis for causing this. There are certain breeds such as poodles, beagles, schnauzers, keeshonds, dachshunds, etc., which are more susceptible to this disease than the others. Mostly dogs suffer from diabetes at the age of seven to nine years.
Most of the time the symptoms are vague and owners have to be careful enough to analyze the noticeable signs. The major reason for all body disorders is due to the failure of the body's cells to utilize blood glucose, which is one of the major energy fuels. The notable symptoms in dogs are increased urination (polyuria), increased thirst (polydipsia), and increased hunger (polyphagia). Blood samples of a diabetic dog contain high sugar levels, which the kidney can't filter efficiently, resulting in excreting glucose in the urine. This results in loss of a large volume of body fluid because of osmosis. Consequently, a diabetic dog feels thirstier to compensate the lost fluid. Since body is deprived of energy fuel, it also suffers from an increased hunger and eats more in order to carry out normal metabolism.
A diabetic may also suffer from ketoacidosis (a life-threatening complication due to insulin deficiency and an increase in stress hormones), dehydration, weight loss, increased fatigue, lethargy, fungal infections, and other health complications.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis is done by physical examination, followed by a series of urine and blood tests. Normal blood sugar level for a dog is 70 - 150 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter). Canine diabetes is diagnosed, if a dog's blood sugar is greater than 200 mg/dl.
This ailment is treated by controlling the blood glucose level, which is achieved by giving insulin injections. There are three ranges of insulin injections - short-acting, medium-range, and long-range. The short-acting variant lasts from one to four hours; medium-range remains effective for four to 24 hours and long-range lasts up to 28 hours. Injecting insulin should be followed carefully in accordance with the veterinarian's prescriptions, since an overdose can lead to lowering of the blood glucose level than normal (hypoglycemia). In addition, the owner has to be careful about the pet's diet and the oral medication prescribed by the veterinarian. The diet should include foods with less sugar content. The amount of red meat and dry food should be kept to a minimum. Instead one can add soft, moist, and homemade food. Diabetic dogs should be fed smaller meals at least twice or thrice a day.
Owners need to be careful about their dog's health and try to observe any change in the behavior. It is always recommended to discuss with your veterinarian or a qualified specialist for any notable signs or symptoms. Proper care should be taken along with regular medical examinations and blood tests, at least twice annually to prevent canine diabetes.