There was an age-old rumour that dogs are born with diabetes. Over the years we learned that that’s not true. Dogs have a higher intolerance to sugar but they are not diabetic. Diabetes in dogs is in fact quite rare.
The exact stats are not known for the number of diabetes cases in dogs. Some say it affects 1 in 100 dogs, others say it affects 1 in 500 dogs. Diabetes is said to be one of the less common illnesses that your dog might have. However, since there isn’t enough research, there is a possibility that your dog has been misdiagnosed with some other disease when they really have diabetes.
Diabetes in Dogs is More Common If Your Dog:
- Is 5 years or above
- Is obese
- Has a poor diet and lifestyle
- Has pancreatitis – pancreatitis affects 25% of dogs
- Has leaky gut syndrome (which is usually caused by problems in the pancreas)
- Has hyperthyroidism
- Has Cushing’s Disease
Types of Diabetes in Dogs
As for humans, we have Type 1, Type 2, Type 1.5 (it’s not an official term but is used amongst medical practitioners) and gestational diabetes. Diabetes in dogs occurs slightly differently than it does for humans.
Though most diabetic dogs get it after the age of 5, they usually have a treatment plan similar to type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is known amongst cats but not seen amongst dogs. Diabetes can occur amongst puppies or young dogs as well, but it is very rare.
Common symptoms of diabetes include excessive hunger, thirst, urination, sudden weight loss, hair loss etc. Frequent UTI and diarrhoea may also be caused because of diabetes.
The above symptoms occur because the insulin is not able to control the amount of sugar that enters the bloodstream. As a result, there is a high number of freely flowing glucose in the blood.
The glucose isn’t channelised to the organs, hence they start to create an obstruction for the veins and arteries and other bodily functions. Without the proper amounts of blood sugar reaching the organs, they are deprived of nutrition. They constantly send signals to the brain to induce hunger and thirst. This is why our dogs are always hungry and thirsty.
The free-flowing sugar can affect any part of the body. For diabetic dogs, it commonly affects the eyes. If your dog is starting to develop a cataract, it’s important to ask for a full body checkup to rule out other health problems including diabetes.
How Does Pancreatitis Lead to Diabetes in Dogs
As we said earlier, pancreatitis affects 25% of dogs. If your dog has or has had pancreatitis even once, it increases their chances of getting diabetes. 25% of dogs with diabetes have pancreatitis as well, so it is important to monitor them closely if they have been diagnosed with pancreatitis.
Our pancreas does not only produce insulin, but it also secretes hormones that encourage digestion. So when the pancreas or a part of the pancreas is inflamed it may impede with the functions of the digestive system. As a result, dogs may frequently have indigestion and other problems in the gut.
Pancreatitis is a serious problem and it can be avoided by giving dogs a low-fat diet, high fibre and high protein diet.
Treating Diabetes In Dogs
The treatment for diabetes in dogs is quite similar to treating type 1 diabetes amongst humans.
Doctors advise insulin shots to be taken twice a day. Many doctors give the same insulin for humans to dogs, however, pig insulin and cow insulin works much more effectively for dogs.
They can have a meal 2-3 times a day. The timings must be the same every day and the calories should be strictly regulated.
Exercise helps too; especially if you have an obese dog. If they lose some weight, it reduces their sugar spikes and keeps their organs safe.
Dogs have special glucometers but you can use the meters made for humans. Bear in mind that some glucometers made for humans show a lesser sugar reading for dogs.
Dogs with diabetes are susceptible to high and low blood sugar (hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia) and you must be prepared to handle both these situations.
How To Handle Hyperglycemia?
If your dog is frequently getting hyperglycemia, you may be required to reduce carbs and simple sugars in their diet. Chances are, you are not giving them enough insulin, in which case, you must talk to your vet and re-adjust the dose.
How To Handle Hypoglycemia?
In case of low blood sugar, we need to give the dog a fast-acting sugar to stop their body from fainting. If your dog is conscious, you may give them maple syrup or any other kind of dog safe syrup to raise their blood sugar. Rub it against their gums and the roof of their mouth to prevent overdosing them with it.
In severe cases, your dog may have suddenly passed out because of the sudden low. You can give them a glucagon shot. There are special glucagon shots available for dogs. You must consult your vet the best glucagon kits for dogs. Make sure to know the amount of administration and how to administer a glucagon shot.
Diet And Care
A diabetic dog should ideally have a low carb, low-fat diet, high fibre and high protein diet. It is not necessary for them to be eating fewer fats but since diabetic dogs are prone to pancreatitis, a low-fat diet keeps them safe.
Ideally, dogs don’t require fibres in their diet but since fibres increase the time taken to digest a meal and release sugar into the bloodstream, they benefit from it.
When you want to increase fibres, make sure to start slow. Too much fibre can make them sick.
The thing with diabetic dogs is that everything needs to be monitored. Even if you want to change their exercise routine or their diet, it must be cleared with your vet.
If you plan to go on a trek with your dog, you can. But it is important to check with the vet so that they can do an assessment and change the insulin dosage for the small duration.
Can My Dog Survive Diabetes?
Diabetes is more severe in dogs than it is with humans. But, that does not mean that your dog cannot survive with diabetes. In fact, if dogs with diabetes are given proper care, they can live as long as non-diabetic dogs.
Dogs that die of diabetes at a young age, often die because the condition was not diagnosed on time. The first six months of diagnosis and treatment are the most crucial time for the dog. They will have rigorous changes in their diet, lifestyle and medication. Usually, when dogs live through this phase, they can easily have a long and fruitful life with diabetes.
That being said, diabetes is an expensive illness. So, if you are planning to adopt a dog with diabetes, please take time to consider the costs and whether you can afford their treatment. Diabetes will affect them all life, and the costs of medication will be on the rise. So, please think of it for the long run.