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Diabetes in Pets

What is diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can affect dogs and cats as well as humans. Sometimes the pancreas becomes unable to produce enough insulin, or the cells in the body fail to respond to insulin properly. The cells in the body cannot absorb enough glucose and too much glucose remains in the blood. This condition is called diabetes.

Diabetes-in-PetsTypes of Diabetes

  • Insulin-deficiency diabetes or Diabetes Mellitus, or ‘Sugar diabetes’: This is when the dog’s body isn’t producing enough insulin. This happen when the pancreas is damaged or 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. It is a metabolic disorder and refers how the body converts food to energy.
  • Insulin-resistance diabetes or Diabetes Insipidus: This is when the pancreas is producing some insulin, but the dog’s body isn’t utilising 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 occur especially in older, obese dogs.

What are the signs of diabetes in dogs?
Early signs:

  • Excessive thirst. The dog may drink frequently and empty the water bowl more often.
  • Increased urination. The dog may ask to go outside frequently and may start having “accidents” in the house. Increased urination (and increased thirst) happens because the body is trying to get rid of excess sugar by sending it out through urine along with water that bond to the sugar.
  • Weight loss. The dog can lose weight despite eating normal food portions. This is because the dog isn’t efficiently converting nutrients from its food.
  • Increased appetite. The dog can be very hungry all the time because the body’s cells aren’t getting all the glucose they need, even though the dog is eating a normal amount.

Advanced signs:

  • If left untreated, symptoms can become more pronounced and can include:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Depressed attitude
  • Vomiting
  • Cataracts (leading to blindness)
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Seizures
  • Kidney failure
  • Ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening acute condition that can be accompanied by rapid breathing, dehydration, lethargy, vomiting, or sweet-smelling breath; can be triggered by factors such as stress, surgery, fasting, infection, or an underlying health condition combined with low insulin level.

Can diabetes damage organs?
Yes. Cells are starved for vital fuel. Muscle cells and certain organ cells are deprived of the glucose – fuel they need for energy. In response, the body starts breaking down its own fats and proteins to use as alternative fuel.
High sugar level in the bloodstream damages many organs. Without insulin to help convert the glucose in the bloodstream into fuel, high levels of glucose builds up in the blood. Unfortunately, this abnormal blood chemistry acts like a sort of poison and eventually causes multi-organ damage. This often includes damage to the kidneys, eyes, heart, blood vessels, or nerves.

Can Diabetes be diagnosed?
Your veterinarian can do simple tests to check for diabetes, including testing for excessive glucose (sugar) in the blood and urine. Blood tests can also show other indications of diabetes, such as high liver enzymes and electrolyte imbalances.

The sooner diabetes is diagnosed and treatment begun, the better chance the pet has of a normal life.

What can make a dog at risk for diabetes?
Age. While diabetes can occur at any age, it mostly occurs in middle-aged to senior dogs.
Gender. Unspayed female dogs are twice as likely as male dogs to have diabetes.
Chronic or repeated pancreatitis. Chronic or repeated pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can eventually cause extensive damage to that organ, resulting in diabetes.
Obesity. Obesity contributes to insulin resistance and is a risk factor for pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes.
Steroid medications. These can cause diabetes when used long term.
Genetics. Diabetes can occur in any breed or mixed-breed, and it seems genetics can play a role in either increased or reduced risk.

How can we treat diabetes?
Diet. Your veterinarian will recommend the best type of diet for your diabetic dog. Usually this will include some good-quality protein as well as fiber and complex carbohydrates that will help to slow absorption of glucose. Your vet may also recommend a diet with relatively low fat content.

Exercise. To help avoid sudden spikes or drops in glucose levels, it is especially important that diabetic dogs maintain a moderate but consistent exercise routine.

Can diabetes be cured?
Although diabetes can’t be cured, it can be managed very successfully. Caninsuline is not available in Nepal so it’s hard to treat a dog. However, cats can be kept on daily oral medication like Glipizide.

How to monitor and manage your dog’s diabetes…
Although some cases may be more challenging, canine diabetes can be usually managed. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine the best management plan for your dog. At the start of treatment this may involve frequent visits to the clinic for testing and medication adjustments, but hopefully the right combination of medication, dosage, diet, and home monitoring will soon be arrived at that will enable you to keep your dog’s blood sugar consistently regulated and help him live a full and happy life.

If your pet is diagnosed with diabetes, don’t panic. With good veterinary support, you should be able to provide the right care for your pet and ensure you both many more happy years together.


Sharad-Singh-YadavDr Sharad Singh Yadav is the Chairman of Advanced Pet Hospital & Research Centre which is open 24 hours throughout the year and located in Bishal Nagar, Kathmandu. He may be contacted on tel: 4422855 or email: aphktm@gmail.com