Diabetes Mellitus is the most common hormonal problem we see in dogs.
As in humans, the disease arises when the cells in the pancreas fail to produce the hormone “Insulin” when our dog eats something. After eating, glucose travels from the intestines into the blood and normally triggers the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin then acts like a lock to allow doors in our body cells to open so they can take up the glucose for energy.
When no insulin is produced, as in Diabetes Mellitus, the glucose stays in the blood and makes the kidneys think that the blood is concentrated and so this is when you are likely to see the first sign of this disease in your dog – excessive thirst.
Other common symptoms to look out for are (a) an increased appetite because your dog is unable to use the energy provided by the food properly and (b) weight loss as your dog’s own body fat and protein is broken down to use as energy. It is at this time that most dogs are brought into our surgery. Diabetes Mellitus is usually diagnosed with a urine test and a blood test.
Treatment for diabetes in dogs is a daily insulin injection. The majority of dogs only need one injection a day but some dogs need two. It is important that the injections are given at the same time every day and the dog’s general routine must remain the same on a daily basis ie the same food fed at the same time and similar amounts of exercise each day. The food should be given before the insulin injection. This is because if the dog does not eat prior to the injection being given, it can make the dog become “hypoglycaemic”.
This condition occurs because the blood glucose level drops too low and your dog can collapse. This is an emergency situation and your dog should immediately be given some honey or glucose syrup and then taken to the vets.
Once the diabetes has been stabilised, your dog should start to drink less, be less hungry and gain weight. Unfortunately, diabetic dogs are very prone to getting cataracts due to the high glucose in the blood. This is very common even in stabilised dogs. In addition, diabetic dogs tend to be more prone to urinary infections.
Again no matter how well the diabetes is controlled, there is usually still some glucose present in the urine. This can cause bacteria to grow and result in an infection although this is treatable.
Generally, diabetic dogs can live long and happy lives - they just need a good routine!