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Diabetes in dogs: causes, symptoms and treatment

Author: Adel Saadoun, Veterinary Doctor

Like humans, our pets, such as dogs, can also be affected by the chronic disease of diabetes.

Unfortunately, diabetes in dogs has no specific treatment, i.e. it is incurable. However, with regular care, dogs can return to a normal life.

In this article, we will explain the causes of diabetes in dogs, its symptoms and treatment.

What is diabetes in dogs?

Diabetes is defined as an increase in blood sugar levels and sugars are no longer able to enter the cells due to the inability of insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. Depending on the causes of this inability, two types of diabetes can be identified:

  • Diabetes mellitus: This type of diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin, leading to an increase in blood glucose levels. It can also be caused by the body’s resistance to the effects of insulin. This is the most common form of diabetes in dogs. It can affect all dogs but pregnant females or overweight dogs are the most affected.
  • Diabetes insipidus: This is a rare form of diabetes in dogs. It is characterized by intense thirst and very important urination. It is caused by a hormonal imbalance (lack of secretion of anti-diuretic hormone) or from kidney damage.

Causes of diabetes in dogs

The causes of canine diabetes can be as diverse as varied. Diabetes can be caused by hormonal imbalance, lesions or drug intoxication. In some cases, the causes can be genetic.

Generally speaking, the main cause of diabetes in dogs is an unbalanced, poor quality diet combined with a lack of physical activity, which can lead to overweight and obesity in the long term. In this case, the pancreas is thus excessively stimulated to promote an overproduction of insulin.

Over time, the amount of insulin produced is no longer sufficient to regulate food intake, resulting in diabetes.

It is worth noting that 99% of diabetes occurs at 5 years of age or older.

Symptoms of diabetes in dogs

Diabetes in dogs usually presents itself as:

  • Polydipsia-polyuria: increased thirst and urination. The urine in this case has a very strong odour;
  • Increased appetite;
  • Although the appetite keeps increasing, a loss of weight can be noticed;
  • Fatigue at the slightest effort;
  • Cataracts, infections…

This is called uncomplicated diabetes because the animal does not look sick. On the contrary, when diabetes becomes complicated, when glucose reaches the urine, the dog may show symptoms such as:

  • Depression;
  • Vomiting;
  • Severe dehydration;
  • Changes in respiratory rate;
  • Fruity, sweet breath (diabetic ketoacidosis).

If left untreated, diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to coma and even death.

Diabetes in dogs: treatment and prevention

Diabetes is a chronic progressive disease that has no specific treatment that could cure it permanently. However, treatment by a veterinarian generally allows a diabetic dog to return to a normal life. This treatment consists of daily insulin injections, the dosage of which will depend on several factors established by the veterinarian.

On the other hand, the other important aspect of diabetes management in dogs is diet. Thus, the diet of a diabetic dog should be rich in protein and fiber and low in sugars. If the dog is overweight or obese, limiting or reducing rations may be recommended. In addition, regular physical activity is also recommended for diabetic dogs.

When it comes to prevention, the best way to avoid diabetes in your dog is to provide a healthy quality of life:

  • A balanced diet of good quality and moderate amounts;
  • Limit treats and sweets;
  • Encourage physical activity and regular walks.
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