November is National Pet Diabetes Month, and if your pet has diabetes, you’re not alone. Many dogs and cats are diagnosed with diabetes during their lifetime.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not process insulin, or the body cannot respond correctly to the insulin it produces. In either case, the disease affects how the body processes blood sugar (glucose), which provides the primary source of energy to muscles, tissues, and the brain. While diabetes mellitus is common in people, many people are unaware that the disease commonly affects dogs.
The most common type of diabetes diagnosed in dogs is Type 1, or Insulin-Dependent Diabetes (or Insulin Deficiency Diabetes). Dogs diagnosed with this disorder are dependent on daily insulin injections to maintain blood sugar balance. In Type 2 diabetes, a dog’s body can still produce its own insulin, but the body cannot respond to it. This is known as Insulin Resistant Diabetes (IRD). While diabetes cannot be cured, it can be managed so your dog can go on to enjoy a healthy and happy life with you. Early detection is the key, so know the most common symptoms.
If you notice puddles on the floor or your dog asking to go out more frequently, this can be a sign. With diabetes, excess blood sugar that cannot be processed ends up in the urine. This is because the kidneys can no longer filter it fast enough to keep it in the blood.
Does your dog appear to be endlessly thirsty? You might think it is because he is urinating so frequently. However, the more he urinates, the more dehydrated he becomes. So if you are noticing these symptoms and he hasn’t been more active than usual, it’s a good idea to bring your pup in to see the vet.
If your dog is eating regularly and loses weight, either suddenly or gradually, this can be a symptom of diabetes. When insulin is not working to break down glucose, your pet’s cells become starved of necessary nutrients. As a result, the body begins to use muscle and fat as energy sources instead, thus leading to weight loss.
You may notice your dog has an increase in appetite, also known as polyphagia. Your dog might be hungrier because the amino acids that are needed by the cells are not getting into the cells or are not being used properly.
Lack of activity or lack of energy to participate in his usual activities with you are a common symptom of dogs with diabetes. What happens is sugar becomes trapped in your dog’s bloodstream, and the body does not receive the glucose necessary for energy.
Many dogs with diabetes will eventually develop cataracts as a longterm complication.
Diabetic dogs are at an increased risk of blindness. Diabetic cataracts can also cause vision impairment. Both cataract development and vision loss can happen quickly or over a long period. Some vision loss can be repaired with surgery.
If diabetes goes untreated, a dog will become chronically dehydrated from the loss of water through its urine. This results in dry and scaly looking skin. The coat will lose its luster and shine. The good news is that this will improve with treatment.
Dogs often develop infections of the urinary tract secondary to diabetes. This is because the increased sugar in the urine creates a favorable breeding ground for bacteria in the dog’s bladder.
If you notice your dog has difficulty moving around or lying down, this is likely due to stiffness or muscle weakness. A lack of glucose getting to the muscles can cause trouble with strength and movement. This may be particularly noticeable in the hind legs.
Just as in humans, diabetes in dogs is a manageable disease. Early intervention is crucial to the successful management of the illness. If you notice any of the symptoms above, have your pet checked by his or her veterinarian.
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