The incidence rate of dogs suffering from diabetes is higher than the rate of diabetes in cats. In fact, study shows that one out of three hundred dogs are diagnosed with this debilitating disease (if left untreated), whilst one in two hundred cats are also stricken with this health issue. Diabetes is more likely to be experienced by middle-aged and senior dogs.
Early Death Sentence
Diabetic pets face a harrowing future ahead of them as a new global research reports that one out of ten pets with diabetes are immediately euthanised once they are diagnosed. In the study called ‘The Big Pet Diabetes Survey: Perceived Frequency and Triggers for Euthanasia,’ factors on why owners opted to euthanise their pets than let them receive proper diabetes mellitus (DM) treatment were discovered.
The most crucial factors that incited this action are impact on owner’s lifestyle (32 per cent), pet welfare (35 per cent), problems obtaining adequate control (35 per cent), animal age (37 per cent), costs (44 per cent), and lastly, presence of concurrent disease (47 per cent). Furthermore, MSD Health, an animal pharmaceutical company, pointed out that diabetic treatment dropout rates are on the rise since owners are subjected to the overwhelming reality of their pet’s condition.
Keep on Fighting
Despite the rising numbers of pet owners who chose to euthanise their pets, others chose to alter their and their pooch’s lifestyles in order to battle diabetes. Rebecca South, an MSD Animal Health senior account manager, shares how animals that are suffering from diabetes can still lead a happy and prolonged life.
Rebecca’s pooch, Lottie, was diagnosed with diabetes back in 2012. Her vet suggested that her pooch must have insulin treatment for the rest of her life and some necessary health-related lifestyle changes should be made. This is to prevent Lottie from succumbing to diabetes since improper or no treatment would result in the worsening of her condition, which may lead to euthanasia.
Six years have passed and Rebecca says that Lottie’s diabetes was second nature. She has established a routine of feeding Lottie a specialised diabetic diet twice a day and another twice daily injections with a specialised diabetic pen. ‘The thought of putting Lottie down just wasn’t an option. She is an important member of the family, and I wanted to do everything I could to keep her with us,’ Rebecca shared.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is the inability of the body to naturally use glucose as an energy source because of the lack of insulin. Insulin helps the glucose get into the cells; thus if the body does not produce enough insulin, the glucose has nowhere to go but on the bloodstream, outside the cells. Once this happens, the problem starts.
Dog Diabetes Symptoms Explained
Since the body cannot use the glucose from the food that the dog eats, what happens then? What happens is the body will undergo a series of adverse changes to compensate for the lack of glucose, which leads us to the dog diabetes symptoms.
- Extreme Hunger
Dogs with diabetes will experience extreme hunger despite eating the right amount of food. Why is that? It is merely the cells telling the body to eat more since no glucose (energy or fuel) go their way, so the dog will seem like it is always hungry.
- Weight Loss
So if the dog is eating more, why is it losing a lot of weight? Let’s go back to the body cells not getting the glucose from the food that the dog eats. When cells do not get the food they need, they will find their food elsewhere—body fat. The cells will signal the body to break down body fat as a replacement for the lost glucose; this, of course, leads to sudden weight loss.
- Excessive Urination
There’s a simple explanation as to why dogs always need to urinate when suffering from diabetes. Remember that the body has unwanted glucose in the bloodstream, which is useless if it cannot be converted to energy. So, what the body does is to eliminate the glucose through the kidneys in the natural biological process of urination.
- Extreme Thirst
Sadly, diabetes will trigger a cycle of extreme thirst and excessive urination. Naturally, when the dog continually eliminates glucose through urination, it is also removing water. Thus, the body compensates by making sure that the dog drinks more water to replace the unnecessary water loss.
The cycle of hunger, weight loss, extreme thirst, and excessive urination will take a toll on the dog’s body and moods. The dog will feel fatigued, and you will start seeing a change in behaviour and eating habits. This is when the dogs begin losing appetite and will also suffer from dehydration. Thus, the weight plummets further down.
If left untreated, dogs may experience complications that are common in diabetes: DKA or diabetic ketoacidosis. What is DKA? Diabetic ketoacidosis is a complication brought by the presence of ketones in the liver, which correlates to insulin deficiency. When a dog develops DKA, he will experience vomiting, abdominal pain, and breathing problems. DKA is fatal and requires immediate veterinary intervention.
Urinary tract infection is a common occurrence in dogs with diabetes. Bacteria thrive in a warm and sweet environment, and when a dog’s urine contains glucose, its urinary tract becomes a haven for bacteria, thus developing UTI.
Manage Diabetes in Dogs
When you think that your dog is one of the dog breeds prone to suffer from diabetes (poodle and Labrador), then it is beneficial to learn how to prevent diabetes from developing.
One definite factor in developing diabetes is obesity. Thus, to minimise the risks of diabetes, make sure to provide your dog with a proper diet (stay away from sugary food and drinks) and the right amount of exercise regularly.
However, if you think your dog already has diabetes, then diabetic management is in order. Let us be clear: there is no cure for diabetes. So how do you manage dog diabetes symptoms?
- Insulin Administration
Since the biggest problem with diabetes is insulin, the most important way to manage the disease is to replace the insulin. Your veterinarian will be the one to prescribe insulin and the proper dosage for your dog. Since insulin administration is scheduled and you cannot be in the veterinary clinic every day, the staff will teach you how to handle, measure, and administer insulin to your dog.
- Glucose Monitoring
When the dog starts with insulin, it is crucial to always to monitor its blood sugar, which means you need to buy a glucose monitor. How does it work? Glucose monitors come with small lancets used to puncture the dog’s skin to obtain a small amount of blood. The monitor will show the glucose concentration of your dog to see if it is safe to administer insulin. Never change the insulin dosage without your veterinarian’s recommendation. Too much insulin in the body may pose a higher risk to the dog since it lowers the glucose level, which will trigger hypoglycaemia.
- Diet and Exercise
As previously mentioned, overweight and obesity in pets play a big role in diabetes. These health conditions are the most common indications that your pet may be suffering from diabetes. Weight loss is crucial for proper diabetes management. Always feed your pooch with a balanced diet since it is highly important for them to maintain a healthy and happy disposition. If you have observed that your pooch has gained too much weight, do not panic but instead consult your vet for an exercise regimen and proper diet recommendation.
List of Dog Breeds Prone to Diabetes
- Alaskan malamute
- Cairn terrier
- Golden retriever
- German shepherd
Diabetes in dogs is not limited to these breeds since any dog can get diabetes. Make sure to follow regular vet consultations for early detection of diseases, not only diabetes. Proper diet and regular exercise are areas you should pay closer attention to avoid risks of diabetes in your dog.