Diabetes, how do I know my dog has it?

Just as with humans there are several indicators of diabetes in dogs. And they’re pretty similar too. For instance both increased thirst and urination is usually prevalent, along with a bigger appetite but which doesn’t lead to weight gain – quite the opposite in fact.

Other causes for concern include cataracts in the dog’s eyes, sweet or ‘fruity’ smelling breath, excessive tiredness, repeated urinary tract infections and continuing skin infections.

Unfortunately, diabetes is a rather common hormonal disease for our canine friends.

My dog is displaying a couple of these symptoms – what should I do?

It’s important for any dog suspected of having diabetes to be checked out by a vet at an early stage – certainly for treatment to have the best effect and to ensure the condition doesn’t worsen. That’s because left untreated diabetes can lead to life threatening secondary conditions and, in a worse case scenario, coma and death.

What veterinary tests can confirm diabetes?

Testing your dog’s sugar levels is the first stage. If it’s high (normal levels are from 80 to 120) and there is sugar in his or her urine, in addition to some of the above symptoms, then your vet will probably diagnose diabetes. This is usually the result of a physical examination, checking blood and carrying out a urinalysis.

What age does a dog usually develop diabetes?

The majority of dogs are diagnosed as diabetic between the ages of seven to ten years old. However it can occur as young as 18 months (especially in Golden Retrievers).

Are particular breeds at risk?

Unfortunately yes, certain breeds of dog are statistically more likely to develop diabetes. This includes Poodles, Cairn Terriers, Springer Spaniels, Dachshunds, Standard/Miniature Schnauzers and Australian Terriers.

However, vets report that diabetes is a condition they very rarely find in breeds such as German Shepherds, Collies, Boxers and Cocker Spaniels.

Meanwhile, around 70 per cent of dogs who are diagnosed with diabetes are female.

How do you treat a dog with diabetes?

A dog who is diagnosed with diabetes is either lacking in a hormone called insulin, or their body has a faulty response to it. In the first instance you’re looking at Type 1 Diabetes and in the second, Type 2.

How does insulin work?

Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and is used to carry glucose into the dog’s cells for energy (glucose goes into the dogs blood stream after food is broken down). If there’s no insulin to deliver the glucose into the cells it is left in the blood stream where it becomes known as high blood sugar (or hyperglycaemia) and is the cause of the symptoms listed above.

The good news is that this condition of hyperglycaemia can be managed by injecting the dog with insulin. This usually happens twice a day and isn’t difficult to administer since most needles are small and the dog feels little discomfort.

Looking after the insulin itself is probably the most taxing consideration of the treatment since it needs to be kept cool in the fridge at all times then warmed up prior to administration (by rubbing between the palms).

Not all dogs are equal

We knew this of course, but what we mean is in the sense of dogs and diabetes, each dog will respond to treatment in his or her own way. Some may require initial hospital treatment in order to regulate their blood sugar levels while others will be able to get by with oral medication or simply more fibre in their diet to stabilise those wayward glucose levels.

Whichever course of treatment is taken, you’ll have the reassurance of knowing you’ve done everything possible for your canine friend and that he future looks considerably much rosier for him or her.