Diabetes in dogs is a growing concern with recent studies indicating that 1 in every 100 dogs will be diagnosed with the disease. For this reason it is extremely important that all dog owners are aware of what causes diabetes, how to spot the symptoms and how to care for a diabetic dog. Fortunately, as with humans, dogs with diabetes can live a long, healthy life provided they receive the proper treatment.
There are two forms of canine diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, the most common form, the pancreas does not produce an adequate amount of the hormone insulin that is required to control the level of glucose in the blood. In Type II diabetes insulin production and use is impaired. This form is far more prevalent in cats than dogs.
There may be several different causes of diabetes in dogs. Some breeds have a genetic tendency toward the disease, including Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Poodles and Samoyeds. Australian Shepherds are not genetically prone to the disease but that doesn't mean that they can't eventually develop it. While diabetes can occur early in a dog's life, it is more likely to develop later in life, particularly in dogs that are obese or in female dogs.
As with humans, the primary reason that dogs develop diabetes is poor diet and lack of exercise, leading to obesity. Dogs need a balanced diet that is not high in carbohydrates. The more carbohydrates that are consumed, the more the blood sugar will rise in response. If a dog eats this way for a length of time, eventually his insulin production will fail to adequately manage the elevated level of glucose in his system and the result is diabetes.
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Feeding your puppy nutritious, high quality food can help prevent the onset of diabetes later in life.
The symptoms of diabetes in dogs can vary but usually include a change in appetite, excessive thirst, weight loss, increased urination, sweet or fruity smelling breath, lethargy, dehydration, and vomiting. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to more serious symptoms including developing urinary tract infections, cataracts and blindness, and chronic skin infections. The most serious cases can even result in coma or death.
If your dog is showing any of the signs of diabetes, it is crucial that you get him to the vet for a complete examination as quickly as possible. Along with a general physical exam, your vet can run blood and urine tests that will determine the blood sugar level. This will tell him if there is a need for treatment. As in humans, the primary treatment is regular insulin injections along with a high fiber diet.
While diabetes in dogs is easily treatable, it can also be prevented in many cases by ensuring that your dog is getting a healthy, low-carb diet and plenty of exercise. This is particularly important for less active breeds but also applies to more energetic dogs like Aussies. No matter what your dog's natural energy level, making sure that he is getting up and moving on a regular basis is the best way to ensure that he remains healthy throughout his life.
Though diabetes can be a real concern for dog owners, it doesn't have to be life threatening for your dog. You can take steps to help your dog avoid developing it and if he does, your vet can help you to determine the best course of treatment so that your dog gets healthy and stays that way for good.