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Some Frequently Asked Questions About Canine Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that pretty much everyone has heard of, and most of us have a basic understanding of the condition and the problems that it can cause. Diabetes in dogs is not a hugely common issue, with around two in every thousand dogs being affected by the condition, but the condition is also very under diagnosed, as pet owners are not always adept at spotting the warning signs and potential symptoms of the condition.

Whether you own a diabetic dog or just want to make sure that you understand the basics of the condition and would be able to identify it if you saw it, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with some of the basics of the condition, and check your understanding of the condition and how it presents. In this article, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about canine diabetes. Read on to learn more.

What causes diabetes in dogs?

Diabetes in dogs is thought to be an autoimmune condition, which means that the autoimmune system of the dog falls out of kilter and attacks the pancreas, which produces insulin, rather than permitting normal function. Diabetes may be present from birth, in which case there may be a hereditary element to it, but it can also arise in later life too.

There are certain medicines, conditions and risk factors that can increase the chances of a dog developing diabetes, and the most common of these are:

  • Allergies.
  • Long term treatment with steroid medications.
  • Infections.
  • Over-vaccinating, or vaccinating puppies too young.
  • Preservatives and chemicals in food.

What are the main indicators of canine diabetes to look out for?

There are a range of signs and symptoms which, when taken in combination, can indicate the development of diabetes. Some warning signals to be on the lookout for include:

  • Excessive thirst and desire for water.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Losing weight for no reason.
  • Bad or sweet-smelling breath.
  • Sticky-looking urine.
  • Sweet smelling urine.
  • Fur loss or shedding.
  • Lethargy and tiredness.
  • Reluctance to eat.
  • Vomiting.
  • General loss of condition.

Can you prevent canine diabetes?

There are such a range of potential risk factors for diabetes that there is no sure-fire way of preventing your dog from developing the condition. Doing what you can to reduce the dog’s exposure to the potential risk factors listed above, such as vaccinating too early, can help to take basic steps to reduce the risk.

How relevant is weight in diabetes?

Obesity in dogs is a big problem, and a dog that is overweight or obese in the long term is exponentially at higher risk of developing diabetes, or of worsening an existing condition. Getting your dog’s weight under control and keeping them fit and active for life will go a long way towards keeping them healthy well into old age, and reduce the chances of them developing diabetes and many other conditions too.

What complications can canine diabetes cause?

Canine diabetes can lead to a fairly wide range of secondary complications that can have an adverse effect on your dog’s health in and of themselves. Some of the most common complications of canine diabetes include:

  • Rapid weight loss.
  • High glucose levels in the urine leading to bladder infections.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Dehydration.
  • Poor circulation.
  • Cataracts.
  • Slow healing time from otherwise minor injuries and illnesses.

Does diabetes mean that you will have to give your dog insulin?

For some dogs, diabetes can be managed by diet alone, but for others, the supplementary administration of insulin is vital to keep the condition under control. Insulin usually needs to be given twice a day when your dog has their meals, and is administered by subcutaneous injections. While the idea of giving your dog shots twice a day at home can be unnerving for the dog owner, your vet will teach you how to do this, and the process is actually very simple and unlikely to bother your dog.

Are there any other things to bear in mind for the diabetic dog?

As well as the elevated blood: sugar issue that diabetes causes, it is also possible that dogs can receive too much insulin, causing their blood: sugar balance to drop rather than rise. This can lead to non-responsiveness, mood swings and possibly aggression, and if not promptly corrected, can even lead to a diabetic coma.

Your vet will teach you the warning signs to look out for if your dog’s blood: sugar balance gets too low, and if this happens, giving them a spoonful of honey or another sweet, easily digested substance can help to correct the problem before it becomes acute.

Managing the lifestyle of a diabetic dog requires a lot of vigilance, and even overexertion during exercise or a slight imbalance in the amount of food that your dog eats can throw the blood: sugar balance out, requiring prompt correction. However, many diabetic dogs live long and otherwise healthy lives, thanks to the dedication and vigilance of their owners.


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