All Creatures Veterinary Hospital

All Creatures Veterinary Hospital
4549 HW 62 West
Mountain Home, AR 72653
(870) 425-5175


Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes Mellitus is a complex and common disorder in dogs. It is caused by insufficient production of insulin by the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone that allows glucose (sugar) in the blood to be used by the body's cells. Diabetic dogs are not able to use the sugar in their blood properly so they develop high blood sugar and sugar in the urine. The sugar in the urine leads to excessive urination, excessive thirst, and frequent bladder infections. Even though diabetic animals have high blood sugar, their bodies cannot use this sugar for nutrition so animals will frequently lose weight despite having a very good appetite. Progression of this disease, if left untreated, can lead to a state called ketoacidosis, which can cause vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, dehydration, and death.

Common clinical signs of diabetes in dogs are increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite, and weight loss. As the disease progresses, poor skin and hair coat, liver disease, and secondary bacterial infections, especially of the urinary tract, become more common. Diagnosis of diabetes is made by checking both the blood and the urine for excess glucose.

Proper treatment of diabetes is necessary to prevent fatal complications such as liver disease and ketoacidosis. Regulating a diabetic dog's blood sugar may take several adjustments in medication, frequent recheck visits to the veterinarian, and can be a long and frustrating process. It requires lots of patience and dedication on the parts of both the veterinarian and owner. Managing a diabetic animal is a serious commitment and usually requires changes in medication and doctor visits throughout the entire life of the animal.

Diabetic dogs require insulin therapy to be successfully managed. Insulin is given as an injection under the skin once or twice daily. Each dog responds differently to insulin so proper choice of insulin type, dose, and frequency of administration need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The proper dose of insulin may change over time and may need to be adjusted based on blood glucose profiles, recheck visits, and response to therapy.

If the insulin dose is too high for an individual, the dog's blood sugar will get too low. This is called hypoglycemia. Signs of hypoglycemia include weakness, stumbling, listlessness, incoordination, convulsions, and coma. If any of these signs occur after giving insulin, the dog should be immediately offered its normal food if it is able to eat. A tablespoon of Karo syrup should be rubbed on the gums, or given by a syringe if the dog can swallow. Your veterinarian should be contacted immediately if your pet experiences any of these signs.

Diet is very important in a diabetic animal. If a diabetic dog is overweight, diet should be designed for him/her to lose weight gradually (no more than 3% of body weight per week.) High fiber, high complex carbohydrate diets are useful in helping to control blood glucose levels after eating. There are a number of prescription diets such as Science Diet W/D and Purina DM for diabetic dogs that help maintain weight and control blood glucose levels.

It is very important that a dog eat before receiving insulin. If a dog is not eating and receives an insulin treatment, hypoglycemia can develop. If a dog has not eaten before an insulin treatment is due, give half the scheduled insulin dose and watch for signs of hypoglycemia. If a dog has not eaten again before the next dose of insulin is due, DO NOT give the insulin and call your veterinarian.

Below are some important things to remember about your dog's insulin:

Insulin handling and storage:

1. Keep insulin refrigerated

2. Use insulin before expiration date on bottle. Discard any insulin remaining after the expiration date.

3. Do not shake insulin bottle. Roll gently in hands before using.

Managing a diabetic dog requires good communication between you and your veterinarian. A diabetic dog may live many healthy years with owners who are willing to put forth the effort of monitoring the dog's condition daily. Some dogs may be difficult to maintain on the same regimen for long periods of time, and increases or decreases in medications may be necessary.

If you have any questions regarding diabetes in your dog, call us at (870) 425-5175.