Dogs Get Diabetes Too! Is It The Same As Humans?
The growing diabetes epidemic is not limited to people, but is increasing among dogs as well. Researchers estimate that one in 200 dogs will develop diabetes.
Fortunately, treatment has made huge strides in recent years, and as a result, although it still cannot be completely cured, it can be managed successfully and dogs with diabetes are living longer, healthier lives.
Is Canine Diabetes the Same as Humans?
To understand what diabetes is, it helps to understand some of this process.
The mechanism of diabetes is relatively simple to describe. Just as cars use gas for fuel, body cells run on a sugar called glucose. The body obtains glucose by breaking down carbohydrates in the diet. Cells then extract glucose from the blood with the help of insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas in specialized cells called beta cells. (The pancreas, an organ situated behind the stomach, produces several hormones.) In diabetes mellitus, cells don’t take in enough glucose, which then builds up in the blood. As a result, cells starve and organs bathed in sugary blood are damaged.
Diabetes occurs in dogs in two forms:
- Insulin-deficiency diabetes—This is when the dog’s body isn’t producing enough insulin. This happens when the pancreas is damaged or otherwise not functioning properly. Dogs with this type of diabetes need daily shots to replace the missing insulin. This is the most common type of diabetes in dogs.
- Insulin-resistance diabetes—This is when the pancreas is producing some insulin, but the dog’s body isn’t utilizing the insulin as it should. The cells aren’t responding to the insulin’s “message,” so glucose isn’t being pulled out of the blood and into the cells. This type of diabetes can especially occur in older, obese dogs.
It is worth noted that female dogs can also develop temporary insulin resistance while in heat or pregnant.
What Are the Symptoms of Dog Diabetes?
The four main symptoms of uncomplicated diabetes mellitus are increased thirst, increased urination, weight loss, and increased appetite.
Yes, these clinical signs could be indicating hundreds of diseases.
But, the diagnosis of diabetes is easy as diabetes is the only common disease that will cause the blood glucose level to rise substantially. As dogs with diabetes often show a persistently high level of glucose in the blood, and the presence of glucose in the urine.
To conserve glucose within the body, the kidneys do not filter glucose out of the bloodstream into the urine until an excessive level is reached. This means that dogs with normal blood glucose levels will not have glucose in the urine. Diabetic dogs, however, have excessive amounts of glucose in the blood, so it spills into the urine. Once blood glucose reaches a certain level, the excess is removed by the kidneys and enters the urine. This is why dogs and people with diabetes mellitus have sugar in their urine (glucosuria) when their insulin levels are low.
How Is Diabetes Treated in Dogs?
Dogs with diabetes generally require two insulin injections each day, and nutrition is an important component of disease management. In general, they must be fed the same food in the same amount on the same schedule every day. Although a dog can go a day or so without insulin without a crisis, this should not be a regular occurrence.
Treatment must be looked upon as part of the dog's daily routine. This means that you, as the dog's owner, must make both a financial and personal commitment to treat your dog. If you must be out of town or go on vacation, your dog must receive proper treatment while you are away. Once your dog is well regulated, the treatment and maintenance costs are reasonable. The special diet, insulin, and syringes are not overly expensive, but the financial commitment may be significant during the initial regulation process or if complications arise.
Initially, your dog may be hospitalized for a few days to deal with any immediate crisis and to begin insulin regulation. One example of an ’immediate crisis’ is a dog that is so sick he has stopped eating and drinking for several days. Dogs in this state, called diabetic ketoacidosis, may require several days of hospitalization with intensive care. Otherwise, the initial hospitalization may be only for a day or two while the dog's initial response to insulin injections is evaluated. At that point, your dog returns home for you to administer medication. During the initial phase of insulin therapy, regular return visits are required to monitor progress.
What Can Dog Owners Do To Prevent Diabetes?
Unfortunately with dogs, diabetes is not always preventable. Some dogs are going to get diabetes no matter what you do.
But you may be able to make it easier to manage or reduce the severity of the symptoms by following the six tips listed below.
- Maintain Regular Checkups
Some diseases can increase the chances of developing diabetes, for example, pancreatitis. So routine checkups and blood tests could be very helpful.
- Get Female Dogs Spayed
Intact female dogs are more likely to develop diabetes. Having your female dog spayed will also decrease her risk of developing other conditions that can be associated with high progesterone levels, including pyometra, a uterine infection sometimes accompanied by high blood sugar levels.
- Keep Your Dog Active
Exercise can play a role in diabetes prevention and management as it helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduce weight gain. Just like People, dogs also need enough exercise to work off the calories they consume.
- Buy Qulity Dog Food
A high protein diet will help keep your dog’s blood sugar levels more stable than a diet high in simple carbohydrates. And please be relaxed, just most mainstream brands offer quality nutrition.
- Don’t Overfeed Your Dog
Weight control is an important part of disease management should your dog become diabetic. Of course, obesity is associated with a wide range of other health problems, so feeding dogs just the right amount is still incredibly important.
- Embrace Fresh Fruits And Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables make great snacks or meal toppers without packing on calories, and the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables do not cause blood sugar spikes.
Green vegetables like broccoli, kale, dandelion greens, or collards could be great to add into their diet. And the ingredients inside will help boost the food’s fiber content and regulate blood sugar fluctuations.
Make sure to consult your veterinarian before adding any fruits or vegetables or making any significant changes to your dog’s diet.