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Diabetes in dogs: causes, symptoms and treatment

As with humans, diabetes in dogs can lead to serious complications. The main causes of diabetes are very diverse and not all of them have been identified yet. When a dog has diabetes, certain symptoms should alert the owner. A consultation is necessary so that a treatment can be prescribed, a dietary rebalancing can be set up and the owner can allow his little companion to have a regular physical activity. Let's take stock.

Diabetes in dogs: the main causes

Diabetes mellitus is a serious endocrine pathology whose evolution, at first rather discreet, leads to very serious complications. It is therefore imperative that the diagnosis of diabetes be made as early as possible so that the animal can benefit from an adapted treatment and its condition can improve.

This disease, which is still not well known, is becoming more and more frequent in dogs. Currently, between 3.5 and 5% of dogs are affected. Diabetes is more common in older animals, but this does not exclude that a young adult dog can also suffer from this disease.

There are family predispositions. However, it is known that obese dogs are more prone to diabetes, as are unspayed female dogs because of their hormonal cycles. Finally, the risk of diabetes may be increased in dogs (male and/or female) undergoing treatment with corticosteroids or contraceptive drugs.

Diabetes in dogs: symptoms that should alert you

Generally, when a dog suffers from an abnormally high level of glucose in the blood, it presents several of the following symptoms
  • Intense thirst and consequently increased water consumption,
  • Weight loss for no particular reason,
  • A lack of interest in interacting with his owner or with other dogs,
  • A great fatigue,
  • An increase in the volume of urine which inevitably leads to some accidents of cleanliness, especially at night: the dog urinates in the house when it never happened to him,
  • Urine that seems sticky,
  • His eyes become white because of the opacification of the cornea,
  • A rapid and significant decrease in visual acuity, even blindness.
The owner may find that in a short time his dog has aged because he no longer has the same spirit as before and especially no longer takes part in games. Moreover, when the animal forgets itself on the floor or tiles, its abundant urine appears sticky because it contains sugar. This is a telltale sign of diabetes and warrants a consultation without delay.

Diabetes in dogs: the risks of complications

It is important to note that some owners, often because they are not aware of the symptoms their dog is suffering from, do not suspect them. However, if not taken care of, diabetes intensifies, does damage and when the owner is finally alerted by a change in the health of his little companion, it is because he is already suffering from serious complications. It is important to know that diabetes can lead to:
  • A diabetic cataract,
  • Blindness,
  • Recurrent infections,
  • A kidney problem,
  • Death of the dog.
At the slightest clinical sign, do not hesitate to make an appointment with the veterinarian.

Diabetes in dogs: treatment

The effects of this disease can be greatly mitigated with targeted management, even if the diabetic dog cannot be completely cured.

The treatment is based on the sterilization of female dogs in order to suppress hormonal cycles, as these impact the balance of the disease. In addition, a change in the dog's lifestyle brings a clear improvement in its state of health as long as the animal also receives the necessary insulin injections. These injections compensate for the insufficient production of insulin (hormone) by the pancreatic cells. Twice a day, in the vast majority of cases, the master himself must inject this hormone under the skin of his little companion thanks to a very fine graduated needle that causes no pain.

Note that veterinary insulin can also be injected into the dog using an injector pen into which a cartridge is simply inserted. A small knob allows you to choose, with the greatest precision, the dose determined by the practitioner. This makes the injection even more comfortable for the animal than using a needle. The pen injector is often preferred by owners of diabetic dogs because it is easy to use and extremely reliable.

Concerning the modification of the lifestyle of the dog suffering from diabetes mellitus, it is based on :
  • The fight against obesity,
  • An adapted and controlled diet in order to regulate the glycemia. The diet must be determined by the veterinarian. It does not contain any fast sugars and few lipids of vegetable origin. The diet must be sufficiently rich in vitamins, minerals and trace elements because diabetes leads to an excessive elimination of these nutrients through the urine. Also a supplementation can be recommended. Each food ration is made up of :
    • Either food specifically elaborated for dogs suffering from diabetes. The owner can find them in specialized shops,
    • Or rations prepared at home: they must be perfectly balanced in proteins, fiber (green vegetables) and slow sugars (rice, pasta).
  • Very regular meal times,
  • No eating outside of meal times,
  • Maintaining (or resuming) a daily physical activity outside, at regular times,
  • Avoiding excessive physical activity until the disease has stabilized. Thus, the duration of walks is reasonable and intensive work is avoided, especially for hunting dogs or herding dogs, for example.
Finally, it is important to know that the support of a veterinary team is essential in parallel with the treatment and a healthy lifestyle for the diabetic dog to get better. If all the conditions are rigorously respected, the animal can live serenely for several years.