What is diabetes?
It is estimated that between 1 in 100 and one in 500 dogs in the UK develops diabetes in their lifetime. Diabetes is typically a lifelong illness which requires treatment in order to keep the disease under control. The condition results in extremely high blood sugar which causes symptoms of illness and, if left untreated, eventually death. Middle aged and older unspayed bitches are more likely to develop the condition and some dog breeds are also known to be more susceptible, for example Labradors, Keeshunds, Springer Spaniels, Golden Retrievers and Old English Sheepdogs.
The long-term complications from diabetes in dogs include diabetic cataracts, liver and kidney disease, gum and urinary tract infections.
Early symptoms include pets drinking a lot of water, lethargy, frequent urination and weight loss despite an increased appetite. Without treatment diabetes leads to anorexia, vomiting, dehydration, collapse, coma and ultimately death.
What causes diabetes?
Diabetes is caused by either the dogs pancreas producing insufficient amounts of the hormone insulin, or the pets body cells not responding to insulin normally. Insulin’s role is to lower blood glucose and, without it, blood sugar levels become dangerously high resulting in a range of problems.
If your dog is showing any of the symptoms of diabetes, contact your veterinary practice. They will be able to conduct some simple tests to confirm if your pet has the disease and, if so, will be able to give advice on treatment. Although the disease is incurable, long-term administration of once or twice daily insulin injections are generally effective at controlling the signs of disease, restoring a diabetic animals quality of life and minimising the risk of diabetic complications. Unfortunately because of the type of diabetes which dogs generally suffer from, tablets are not an effective option for treatment of diabetes.