Diabetes in dogsDiabetes – medically known as diabetes mellitus – is a serious metabolic disease in dogs, similar to that in humans, that if not treated or treated negligently, causes the animal premature death and significant suffering. Veterinary involvement is essential even when the presence of diabetes is suspected. Depending on the severity of the disease, dogs also usually require insulin and must be treated professionally. Particularly in older, overweight dogs, diabetes should always be considered if certain symptoms are present. The symptoms of increased urination and great thirst with poor general condition always require veterinary clarification.
What is diabetes?
The pancreas produces the hormone insulin in the healthy canine organism. Insulin transports sugar (glucose) into the cells. Keeps the blood sugar level in the organism constant. Furthermore, insulin works together with the liver. When the cells no longer absorb sugar, glucose is temporarily stored in the liver and partially converted to fat cells. In addition, the liver produces glucose itself. A mature communication system between the pancreas/insulin. The liver regulates its own glucose production. The insulin production of the pancreas can be weakened or completely stopped for various reasons. As a result, glucose circulates freely in the blood. The blood sugar level rises. The cells are no longer supplied with the nutrient, and the liver continuously produces glucose itself, because the messenger insulin, which normally inhibits production, is missing. Too much glucose in the blood has serious consequences for various organs: the kidneys, the eyes and fine blood vessels in the extremities are particularly at risk. Also the fat metabolism changes, the risk for cardiovascular diseases increases. Finally also the protein metabolism is lastingly changed. Too much glucose in the blood thus leads to a severe metabolic disorder, which disturbs the entire organism in the medium term and destroys organs in the long term.
Causes of diabetes in dogs
Diabetes can manifest itself in dogs as early as puppyhood. Genetic and autoimmune processes (the body's own defense system attacks its own cells) are regularly responsible for the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas not producing enough or no insulin. In humans, this corresponds to type I diabetes. Some breeds seem to have a predisposition to develop diabetes later in life. This includes many small breeds such as dachshunds, poodles and various terrier breeds such as the popular white West Highland terrier. In this case, the dog's life begins with a normal pancreatic function, and only in middle age, around 5-6 years, the insulin production starts to decrease. In humans we speak of type II diabetes. In addition to the predisposition, the nutritional condition of the dog also plays a major role in the development of diabetes. Overweight and obese dogs are at greater risk of developing diabetes, even if there is no predisposition within the breed. Sugary diets, which are not very species-appropriate for the dog, further contribute to manifest diabetes. Various diseases can lead to so-called secondary diabetes (inflammation of the pancreas, tumors, hypothyroidism and others).
Symptoms of diabetes in dogs
Dogs with incipient diabetes excrete above-average amounts of urine and require more fluids. Impurity can thus be a sign of the disease. The animals become ill frequently, infections become much more prevalent. With untreated progression, diarrhea, vomiting, emaciation and apathy occur. Disease processes start at the eyes due to deposition of sugar molecules there. There is clouding of the lenses (cataracts) and also yellowing, as jaundice is not uncommon. Sometimes the animals emit a sweetish smell from the mouth, one speaks of an acidosis respiration. Internally, the liver becomes fatty. Overall, the general condition of the diseased animals deteriorates steadily. They are very susceptible to stress, heatings lead to a further deterioration.
If there is even the slightest indication of the onset of diabetes, the animal should be presented to the veterinarian. The doctor will be able to distinguish diabetes from other diseases by means of various laboratory tests. If there are elevated sugar levels in both the blood (hyperglycemia) and urine (glucosuria) at the same time, diabetes must be amed.
Treatment of diabetes in dogs
The severity of the disease determines the course of treatment. As a rule, dogs become insulin-dependent from the start, as they hardly respond to the oral administration of diabetes medication in tablet form. The owner must inject insulin in the future. The veterinarian instructs him. Accompanying measures are, depending on the type of diabetes, a special diet, which is of course free of added sugar, and further adjustments to the lifestyle. Excess weight should be gently reduced, sedentary dogs should be accustomed to regular, moderate walks. The owner must always remember that his animal is seriously ill. If it must take further medication, the attending veterinarian should always be informed about the presence of diabetes – even in emergency situations. Drugs may interact with insulin or other diabetes medications. Hypoglycemia may occur.
Diabetes can also be treated homeopathically. However, a sole naturopathic treatment is not possible. Arsenicum album in different potencies is the accompanying remedy of choice. An individual constitutional treatment at the homeopath often helps to stabilize the general condition of the dog.
Overweight and the administration of sugar-added dog food should be avoided in all dogs from the beginning. Dogs should be fed and kept in a species-appropriate way. Barfen (raw feeding) is a good alternative to industrially processed feeds. The species-appropriate attitude includes sufficient movement. A regular daily routine. Dog owners in general should be alert to changes in older animals. This concerns for example the increased urge to urinate. The sooner an emerging diabetes is recognized and treated, the less organ damage will occur. An animal that has been well medicated in good time has the prospect of further good years of life. The prerequisite is that the owner deals with the disease and its treatment. He must learn to give the insulin injections and be extremely disciplined in doing so.
With diabetes suspicion always to the veterinary surgeon
It cannot be repeated often enough: If diabetes is suspected, the first course of action is to visit the veterinarian. Diabetes is a serious disease, which makes the animal suffer and threatens its life.