Could your dog have diabetes?

As November is Pet Diabetes Month, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of the symptoms of diabetes and how to keep a diabetic dog in good health. Dave Tweedle, My Family Vets Vet & Clinical Director at Natures Vet in Somerset, explains more…


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What are the symptoms of diabetes?


Diabetic dogs usually have one or more of the following symptoms. These are: 


  • Excessive urination
  • Excess thirst (drinking more)
  • Excess hunger (eating more)
  • Weight loss – despite the excess eating

If your dog shows these clinical signs, contact your vet right away. Individually, the symptoms listed above can belong to a number of health problems, so it’s still worth seeking veterinary attention if your dog shows one but not all. I.e. Their appetite and weight are fine but they’re going to the toilet more often than usual. 


What causes it? Does it affect some dogs more than others? 


There aren’t necessarily any “causes” of diabetes in dogs, although certain lifestyle factors can put dogs at a greater risk. 


Some of these lifestyle factors, owners have no control over. These include: 


  • Age (dogs aged 7-10 are most commonly diagnosed)
  • Sex (70% of diabetic dogs are female)
  • Breed (diabetes is most common in Poodles, Dachshunds and Springer Spaniels)

That said, there’s one factor that owners do have control over: DIET. A dog who eats an unhealthy diet (and is overweight as a result) is far more likely to develop diabetes than a dog on a healthy diet – the same goes for many health problems, including arthritis and heart disease. 


What goes wrong in a diabetic dog? 


Diabetes is an incurable disease where a dog’s body can’t properly control blood sugar levels. (Blood sugar = glucose.) 


Usually, after a dog enjoys a tasty meal, their blood sugar levels increase and they’re provided with all-important energy. To make sure blood sugar levels don’t get excessive, the body produces a hormone called insulin that works to regulate blood sugar levels and convert glucose into energy successfully. 


Diabetes occurs either when the pancreas can’t produce insulin (Type 1) or when the body resists or fails to process insulin (Type 2). 


What’s the prognosis for a dog with diabetes?


If diabetes isn’t treated, it can lead to serious health problems. 


The good news is that diabetes can be managed and when done so, diabetic dogs can lead long, active and happy lives. 


Type 1 diabetes is far more common in dogs. A dog with Type 1 diabetes will need insulin treatments, usually every day for the rest of their life. Giving your dog an insulin injection may sound scary, but your vet will talk you through it thoroughly and provide all the support you need. 


If your dog is diabetic, you’ll be advised to attend regular check-ups with your vet – just to make sure everything is okay and to pick up on any further health complications before they get worse. 


At home, it’s useful to remember that a suitable balanced diet can help to keep your dog’s blood sugar levels under control. Feeding a healthy diet and keeping your dog at a weight appropriate for their breed is a key part of being a responsible owner – whether your pet is diabetic or not. 


For more help and advice on managing your dog’s diabetes, have a chat with your local vet. 


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