Diabetes in Pets



Diabetes is a word none of us want to hear from our veterinarian. Diabetes is a disorder of carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism caused by an absolute or relative insulin deficiency.

Diabetes, a common condition for humans, is also relatively common in domestic animals, like dogs and cats. Type 1 diabetes is the more severe form of the disease, as it is dependent on daily insulin injections. An affected pet will be hungry a lot of the time, since glucose is not making it to the brain; glucose levels in the brain are too low for the brain to register that it is receiving food. While many cases of diabetes are seen in older dogs, it can occur at any age. At heightened risk are obese dogs and female dogs.

Early signs: 

  • Excessive urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Hunger
  • Weight loss even with normal appetite

Later signs:

  • Anorexia - complete loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Vomiting

Development of Ketoacidosis (metabolic acidosis caused by the breakdown of fat and proteins in the liver in response to insulin deficiency)

  • Depression
  • Vomiting

Other symptoms include:

  • Enlarged liver
  • Cataracts
  • Bladder or kidney infection
  • Obesity

There are several possible causes for diabetes mellitus. Genetic predisposition is one likely cause, since some breeds seem to be predisposed to diabetes, and dogs that have diabetes often also have relatives with the disease. However, there is also thought to be a relation to hormones therapies, since dogs that are receiving drugs to control heat cycles are at a higher risk for developing diabetes. This is due to their interference with insulin production. The prevalence of diabetes in dogs is not huge; it varies between 1 in 400 and 1 in 500.

Some dog breeds are more commonly affected:

  • Standard and Miniature Schnauzers
  • Miniature and Toy Poodles
  • Samoyed
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Cairn and Yorkshire Terriers
  • Pug
  • Dachshund
  • Beagle

Your veterinarian will prescribe a course of treatment that will include daily exercise. Most diabetic patients can be managed without complications. Properly managed most pets do well and usually have normal life-spans.

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