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Diabetes is a health condition that affects more than just people. It can affect dogs, too. It occurs when the body can’t use glucose properly. The cells don’t receive the blood sugars they need, which causes the body to turn to fat and protein for energy instead. At the same time, glucose builds up in the blood.
When left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health complications. Fortunately, pet parents can manage the condition and help their dogs to live long, healthy lives. The earlier they catch the symptoms and change the pet’s diet and lifestyle, the easier diabetes can be to keep under control. With lifestyle adjustments, nutritional changes, and exercise diabetic dogs can live long, healthy, and full lives. Here’s what pet parents need to know to recognize the symptoms and get their dog the care and treatment they need.
Diabetes occurs in dogs in two different forms:
Insulin-deficiency diabetes. With this type of diabetes, the body isn’t making enough insulin. The pancreas may be damaged, or it isn’t functioning properly.
Insulin-resistant diabetes. With this type of diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin, but the body doesn’t use it as it should. The cells also aren’t responding to insulin, so they aren’t absorbing it from the bloodstream.
Some dogs are at a greater risk of developing diabetes than others. For instance, obesity is one of the leading risk factors for insulin-resistant diabetes. Other risk factors include:
Use of certain steroid medications
There are a few symptoms that can point to dog diabetes. Some of the earliest signs include:
Increased appetite. The body’s cells aren’t getting the energy they need, so a dog with diabetes may be hungrier.
Increased thirst. Pet parents may notice their dog visiting the water bowl more often and emptying it.
More frequent urination. With diabetes, increased urination occurs because blood sugars spill into the urine, drawing a lot of water with them. The dog may ask to go out more often or start having accidents in the home.
Weight loss. Despite eating normally or eating more than normal, a dog may start losing weight.
As diabetes progresses, a dog may start exhibiting additional symptoms, such as:
A decrease in appetite
Recurrent skin or urinary tract infections
When pet parents notice any symptoms that might indicate diabetes, they should schedule a vet visit right away to seek dog health advice, blood tests, and diabetes treatment recommendations. The dog’s primary vet can run tests to diagnose the condition — and rule out other potential causes for the specific symptoms a dog is experiencing — and help pet parents create a treatment plan that keeps it under control.
Managing diabetes in dogs requires a lifelong commitment from the pet parents. Most dogs will need daily insulin injections. The substance is injected under the skin, so the pet parents will need to learn how to give their dog a shot. While this can be stressful or overwhelming at first, most pet parents quickly find that the process isn’t that difficult.
Pet parents will need to change their dog’s diet to help manage dog digestive health and the symptoms of their diabetes. While every dog’s gut health and digestive needs may vary, a diet for controlling diabetes often includes high-quality protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. These nutrients can help to slow the absorption of glucose, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Incorporating more exercise will also help manage diabetes in dogs. Regular exercise can help to prevent spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. Based on their age, weight, mobility, and willingness to exercise some dogs may have different exercise routines, training, or physical therapies as part of their dog diabetes treatment plan.
Every dog is different, which means there’s no singular treatment plan when it comes to diabetes. The dog’s primary vet can work with pet parents to develop an effective treatment plan — which can include new dog health care products and specific dog care tips — that ensures the dog’s health and well-being.
There may be a bit of adjustment early on, as the dog and pet parents alike get used to a new routine, diet, and medications. Eventually, managing diabetes will become a normal part of life.
Recognizing the symptoms of diabetes in dogs is essential for pet parents to get the necessary treatment and get the condition under control. Should a pet parent suspect diabetes, they should schedule an appointment with their primary vet for bloodwork. Intervention and management are vital for ensuring their dog lives a healthy, happy life.