November is National Pet Diabetes Month
While National Diabetes Month was originally created with humans in mind, November is the time to increase awareness of this disease in dogs, too. Diabetes mellitus (DM), or “sugar diabetes,” is becoming more prevalent in dogs, so let’s talk about it.
What is diabetes mellitus?
The pancreas is an important organ near the stomach that produces the hormone insulin. Insulin acts like a “key” that allows glucose molecules to leave the bloodstream and enter the cells of the body. When something goes wrong with this process, a dog develops DM.
There are two types:
In type 1 DM, the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin (or produces much too little to have any effect). This is the most common form for dogs, and these dogs need insulin injections to stabilize their blood sugar levels and enable the cells to get the glucose molecules.
With type 2 DM, there is some insulin in the body, but it’s either not quite enough, it is secreted too slowly, or the body resists using it properly. In humans, this type can sometimes be regulated without insulin injections, by giving medications that stimulate the pancreas. With dogs, though, these drugs don’t work, so most will need insulin injections.
What are the signs of DM?
The typical signs of DM include:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Weight loss
- Increased hunger
If left untreated, DM can lead to cataracts, blindness, fainting, and even death.
Who gets DM?
Any dog can develop DM, but there are some groups where it is more likely to be found:
- It is about twice as common in female dogs compared to males
- Older dogs – typically aged 7 to 9
- Some breeds, such as: Australian Terriers, Beagles, Keeshonden, Schnauzers, and Samoyeds
- Overweight and obese dogs
Preventing DM isn’t always possible, but you can help your dog have his best chance by feeding a quality, veterinarian-approved diet, providing lots of exercise, and helping your dog maintain a healthy weight.
How is it treated?
Insulin injections are usually required by dogs with DM, typically twice each day. Don’t worry, giving the injections is easy, and doesn’t usually bother the dog. Often, if you distract him with a treat, he won’t even notice the pinch. Treatment requires dedication, though – the timing of the injections is very important.
When a dog’s DM is well-controlled, he can life a long and happy life!