Diabetes is a much more common condition in dogs than many realise, with an estimated 1 in every 300 dogs diagnosed with diabetes.
Diabetes mostly affects middle-aged and older dogs, with most dogs diagnosed between 7-9 years of age.
It’s important that diabetes in dogs is diagnosed and managed as early as possible to avoid long-term damage. Read on to find out the key risk factors, symptoms to look out for and treatment options.
What is dog diabetes?
Diabetes in dogs is no different from the condition that occurs in people. However, unlike in humans, dogs primarily suffer from Type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, also known as sugar diabetes. With diabetes mellitus, the dog’s pancreas doesn’t function properly, which means that the body can’t produce enough insulin.
Diabetes risk factors
While older dogs are most likely to develop diabetes, the condition can also occur in pups as young as 4. While obesity is considered to significantly increase the risk, genetics and other health conditions can also play a role. Female dogs who haven’t been desexed are also twice as likely as male dogs to develop diabetes.
Your dog’s breed also can increase their likelihood of developing diabetes. A number of breeds are more predisposed to diabetes, including:
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Cocker Spaniels
There are a number of symptoms that may indicate your dog may have diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Weight loss
- Excessive urination
- Change in appetite
- Repeat urinary tract infections
Your dog doesn’t need to display all of these symptoms for it to be diabetes. These symptoms can also point to other serious illnesses, so it’s important to make an appointment with your vet for a full examination. If left untreated, diabetes in dogs can lead to blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage – and can also increase the occurrence of other serious diseases – so it’s crucial that you take your pet to the vet soon as you start noticing symptoms occurring.
To diagnose diabetes, your vet will perform a thorough examination of your pet and discuss their symptoms and behaviour. They will also undertake blood and urine testing to check for glucose levels, as well as to rule out any other illnesses.
While diabetes in dogs cannot be cured, the disease can be managed to enable your pet to lead a happy and long life. The management of diabetes requires some life-long changes, including daily administering of insulin and sometimes change to your pooch’s lifestyle.
Once your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, your vet prescribe insulin and will show you how to perform injections. The dose and schedule will depend on your pet’s age, condition and weight, and may also need to be adjusted over time to ensure their insulin levels are appropriate. Typically, your dog will receive one or two injections per day.
You may also need to make some changes to your pet’s diet and activity levels. If your dog is overweight, getting them back to their healthy weight range will help their cells to use insulin more effectively. Dogs with diabetes typically require a low-fat, high-fibre diet. It’s also important to get your pet moving as much as possible, with long, daily walks and regular playtime.
As with most illnesses – in people and pets – prevention is better than cure. Feeding your dog a balanced diet, managing their weight and making appointments for regular health checks at the vet are all positive steps in helping reduce their risk of developing diabetes and other diseases.
If you’re ever concerned that your dog may be displaying possible signs of diabetes, the experienced vets at Moorabbin Veterinary Hospital are here to help. You can call us on 03 9555 4808 or visit our website to schedule an appointment online.