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Diabetes mellitus is a condition where the body has a deficiency of the hormone insulin or the body is insensitive to the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone which allows glucose to be taken up by the body and used as an energy source. It is produced in the pancreas by islet cells. In diabetes the most common reason for an insulin deficiency is the destruction of the islet cells. The result of improper insulin production, is that the dog will have hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar. It is normally a long term disorder that will need life long treatment. Diabetes is seen mostly in middle-aged to older dogs, but dogs of any age can acquire the disease. Females are almost twice as likely to be affected compared to males.
Although any dog can be affected by diabetes there are certain breeds which seem to be predisposed to the condition. They include the Miniature Poodle, Dachshund, Schnauzer, Cairn Terrier, Beagle, Chow Chow, Samoyed, and Keeshond.
There is not a specific known cause of diabetes but there are many conditions which predispose dogs to acquiring the disorder. Dogs that have had previous inflammation of the pancreas are at a greater risk to develop the condition than those who have not. Also overweight dogs are at risk. In some cases diabetes can be genetic in nature so knowing the health history of your dog's relatives is important.
In the absence of a genetic test, prevention of diabetes in dogs includes preventing pancreatitis, and avoiding obesity and periodontal disease.
The symptoms of diabetes are fairly general. The most common sign is frequent and large amounts of urine being passed. An excessive amount of sugar in the blood leads to sugar in the urine. To compensate for this the urine is diluted leading to high volumes of urine being excreted. Another sign closely related to this is the dog drinking large amounts of water. Because they are excreting high volumes of urine a lot of water is needed to keep them hydrated. The dog may also act very hungry. This is because they are not able to absorb the carbohydrates in their food to use as energy. If the diabetes is in the late stages and not diagnosed, or poorly controlled, cataracts may form.
Diabetes is relatively easy to diagnose in dogs. A test is done to measure the amount of glucose, or sugar, present in either the blood or the urine. The normal blood glucose value is 75-120 mg/dL. In dogs with diabetes this number will be much higher.
Although there is currently no cure for diabetes it is a very treatable disease and by following a strict schedule a dog can live a happy, normal life. Long term success for treating diabetes is dependent upon the owner. To control diabetes diet and insulin are important. Replacement insulin is normally given in the form of an injection under the skin. There are many choices as to which replacement insulin you can use. Your veterinarian can help you determine what the best choice is for your dog. Insulin injections are given either once or twice a day at meal time. There is no common dose of insulin for all dogs. To start out the dog will be put on a base dose but monitoring of the blood sugar will be done routinely to determine the correct dose for each individual dog. In addition to insulin, diet is important in the treatment of diabetes. A diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates is recommended for dogs, though a specific diet will be determined by your veterinarian. It is important to stick to the diet strictly avoiding certain treats and table scraps; doing this will help keep blood glucose levels stable. Once a dog is regulated their levels should continue to be checked every 4 to 6 months to verify that the current treatment is still working for the dog.
If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus you, as the owner, are the most important part of your dog's treatment. Diabetes is a disease that requires consistency for treatments to be successful. The correct amount of insulin must be given at the right intervals and done so at the same time each day. The dog's diet is strict and any deviations from it can lead to high or low blood sugar levels. By administering medications and keeping to the diet you will be able to let your dog lead a happy, normal life even with diabetes.
The AKC Canine Health Foundation has funded 3 grants, totaling over $230,000, dealing with diabetes. The research has been focused on causes of the disease. With your help we can continue to fund these research projects which may, hopefully lead to identifying the cause of diabetes and preventing it.
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