Diagnosing & Treating Diabetes in Dogs

veterinarians in south bayDiabetes is increasing among dogs as well as humans. In fact, approximately one in 200 dogs will develop  diabetes. Fortunately, our veterinarians can treat canine diabetes, thanks to recent strides in veterinary medicine. Many dogs with diabetes now live longer, healthier lives.

What is Dog Diabetes?

Mammal’s bodies (including humans and dogs) use “glucose” (“sugar”) for fuel. This glucose comes from breaking down carbohydrates in the food. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, extracts the glucose from the blood for use.  In a diabetic human or dog, the pancreas cells don’t work properly, so the “sugar” builds up in the blood – to a toxic degree.

The Signs & Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes can be a silent disease. Dog owners may notice that their pet has greater than normal hunger and/or thirst, weight loss, more frequent or volume urination, or even “accidents” in the house. Your veterinarian can diagnose diabetes with a simple blood test that measures your dog’s blood glucose level.

Because other diseases sometimes can also sometimes raise a dog’s glucose levels, the veterinarian may want to run some additional tests to rule out other causes.

Once a dog is diagnosed with diabetes, the veterinarian will typically want to obtain a “serial blood glucose–concentration curve” by measuring the pet’s glucose level repeatedly over many hours. The results will help the veterinarian choose an appropriate insulin, dose and dosing schedule.

What Are The Types of Diabetes?

Humans are subject to three kinds of diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes is hereditary and most often occurs in children – when the immune system attacks and destroys the pancreas’ beta cells, so the body no longer produces insulin. There is no cure for Type 1 Diabetes and it must be treated with Insulin injections. Type 2 Diabetes is much more common in humans and is usually the result of middle or old age coupled with dietary factors, excess weight, and a sedentary lifestyle. It can be treated with medication, and even reversed.  Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and is believed to be caused by hormonal changes.

Dog diabetes is different from human diabetes – and while not 100% universally understood, it can be treated. There are two kinds of canine diabetes: insulin-deficiency diabetes (IDD) and insulin-resistance diabetes (IRD). Neither one matches any kind of human diabetes exactly.

In IDD – believe to be genetic – a dog loses beta cells and its pancreas no longer makes enough insulin to keep glucose levels under control. In IRD, the dog produces insulin but something prevents the dog’s insulin from functioning properly, including high levels of the female hormone progesterone, pregnancy, an endocrine disease, or treatment with steroids or progesterone-like hormones.

Risk Factors for Canine Diabetes

Several factors can raise a dog’s risk of developing diabetes, including: breed, age, gender, weight, diet, viral infections, inflammation of the pancreas or bowel, Cushing’s disease, and long-term use of steroids or progesterone-like drugs.

How is Diabetes Treated in Dogs?

The goal of treating canine diabetes is to keep blood glucose levels close to normal, so that your dog feels good now and is less likely to develop diabetes-related complications later.

With rare exceptions, dogs with diabetes will need one to two daily insulin shots for the rest of their lives to survive and live a normal life. The insulin is injected just under the skin with a very fine needle. The injection is fairly simple to do, once the veterinarian shows you how, and most dogs quickly acclimate and really don’t mind the shots.

Either a human insulin, or Vetsulin – the only insulin approved for use in dogs in the U.S. – may be prescribed. Insulins vary greatly in how fast they work, how long they last and how much they cost. Dr. Steinam will take these factors into account when choosing the best type for Insulin your dog.

In addition to proper insulin administration, other components of treatment including home urine-testing of blood glucose levels, proper diet, weight loss (if the dog is overweight), and a good exercise program. This can help manage the dog’s diabetes, so they live a longer and happier life.

Complications of Diabetes in Dogs

The most common diabetic complication in dogs is cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye). If diabetes is not well managed, dogs may also develop hardening of the arteries, kidney disease, retina disease or nerve disease. Bacteria also thrives on a high-sugar diet – so dogs with diabetes are more prone to gum disease, urinary tract infections, skin disorders and other infections.

But with proper care, monitoring and treatment your diabetic pet can still live a longer and happier life.

Our Manhattan Beach Veterinarians Treat Dog Diabetes

If you have a diabetic dog, or if you are worried your dog may be showing signs of diabetes, our caring and experienced veterinarians can help. Remember, as with any disease, early action is important.

Call our office today and we will be happy to test your dog, and prescribe the very best treatments so they can live a long and happy life.

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