Diabetes is a very common medical condition that arises in human beings. Pets, including dogs and cats are also as susceptible to this disease as humans. When diabetes in dogs is left unidentified or is inappropriately treated, it leads to a much serious condition known as "Diabetic Ketoacidosis" (DKA). It is a life-threatening condition and can prove fatal if left untreated. It is characterized by raised blood glucose level, presence of ketones in urine, and reduced levels of bicarbonate in the blood. Dogs suffering from this medical condition are seriously ill and develop other complications as well.
Diabetic ketoacidosis in dogs produces the following symptoms -
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden loss of vision
- Increased thirst
- Increased frequency of urination
If condition of the dog is relatively stable, veterinarians administer short-acting, crystalline insulin injections at regular intervals to bring back blood glucose to normal level. Regular administration of insulin gradually controls serum glucose level and level of ketones in the dog's urine. Crystalline insulin is administered intravenously or intramuscularly on an hourly basis till the glucose level in the body is reduced to normal. Dextrose is also administered along with other fluids to prevent glucose levels from falling down far below the normal levels, after the dog is subjected to a dose of insulin.
Severely ill dogs are treated in a different way as compared to relatively stable dogs. Treatment includes replacement of fluid deficit in the dog's body and maintenance of body fluid balance. Bicarbonate is administered to maintain the acid-base balance in the body. Many dogs recover fairly after being treated with fluids. The ones who do not recover well are treated with insulin, to control the sugar level in their blood. Serious complications like anemia due to red blood cell breakdown can occur during the treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis, which is controlled by the administration of phosphate supplementation in dogs.
It is important to control the glucose level and bring back electrolyte abnormalities to a normal level gradually, because rapid control of these levels may lead to neurological signs and brain cell damage. Close monitoring of potassium and phosphorous concentrations must be done so that required supplements can be administered as and when required.
Associated complications like acute kidney failure, pancreatitis, and bacterial infections can occur along with ketoacidosis. Treatment of these complications is also carried out simultaneously. Kidney failure is treated with fluids, and antibiotics are given to curb bacterial infections. Antibiotic treatment is provided even when infections are not evident, in order to control problems that may arise in case there is an infection.
After fair recovery, long-acting insulin is included in the treatment. When the dog is even better, the pet owner is advised to take his pet home where he can follow a regular insulin regimen for his dog.
There are no specific means to prevent DKA in dogs. One way of preventing DKA is to avoid giving high fatty foods to the pet. High fatty foods can trigger pancreatitis which can ultimately lead to ketoacidosis. The best measure for prevention is to look for symptoms of diabetes in dogs. This will help in identifying the condition at a much early stage so that treatment can be provided, and the chances of developing ketoacidosis are reduced.
If symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis are evident in your dog, take it immediately to a veterinarian for checkup. The vet will diagnose the condition by the help of blood test, urine test, physical examination, and signs of ketoacidosis. Positive tests will show elevated glucose level in blood and presence of ketone bodies in urine. Along with these, a fruity smell in the dog's breath will confirm the condition in the dog. Once confirmed, make sure you take care of your dog very well so that it can get over its critical condition and become healthy once again.