This post is written by guest author, Britt Kascjak, from the Shed Happens.
Surprisingly common, diabetes will affect approximately 1 in 300 dogs at some point in their lifetime. The good news is that the veterinary community has made great progress in managing this lifelong condition. Prepare yourself to act fast, giving your dog the best chances at a happy, healthy life, by learning to recognize these 10 signs of diabetes in dogs.
November is Pet Diabetes Month, a time to help educate pet owners about the signs and symptoms of diabetes as well as what you can do to care for your pet.
There is no known cure for diabetes, however, with early detection and the proper treatment and monitoring, your pet can enjoy a happy, healthy life.
What is Diabetes?
In order to better understand the signs of diabetes in dogs and how to prevent it, we must first have a basic understanding of the condition itself.
Your dog’s body converts the food that it’s given into energy. This is the fuel that they use to carry out the body’s daily functions.
The ‘fuel’ used in your dog’s body is a sugar called glucose.
This sugar is pulled out of the bloodstream by a hormone called insulin, allowing it to be delivered to the cells where it’s needed.
This insulin is made by the pancreas.
In a diabetic dog, this process is not working effectively.
Insulin-deficiency diabetes is a condition in which the body isn’t producing enough insulin in the pancreas to keep up with the needs of the body.
Insulin-resistance diabetes occurs when the pancreas is producing some insulin, however, the body isn’t responding and using it appropriately.
Both cases can be managed effectively as long as they are caught and diagnosed early, before the development of long-term complications.
Pet owners should be aware of the possible warning signs of pet diabetes and see their veterinarians for a definitive diagnosis. Considering the fact that pet diabetes can be effectively managed, lack of owner awareness may be the biggest risk factor associated with this condition.
Watch for These 10 Signs of Diabetes in Dogs
#1 – Increased Urination
In an attempt to get rid of the excess sugar in the body, a diabetic dog will urinate more often.
Your dog may ask to go outside more often, or you may even notice that an otherwise well-behaved dog starts to have ‘accidents’ in the house.
#2 – Drinking More Water than Usual
If you notice that your dog is drinking more water than usual, this could be a response to the increase in urination.
Pay attention to your dog’s water dish and how often it is being emptied. You may not see him/her drinking each time.
#3 – Overly Tired or Feeling Weak
When we eat, our body breaks down sugar to provide the body with energy.
However, if a dog is diabetic, the body is unable to carry out this process, denying the body the fuel that it needs.
This often results in your dog tiring easily, lacking energy, or feeling weak.
#4 – Loss of Interest in Favorite Activities
If you have a dog that loves going out for walks or playing catch with their favorite toy, however, you notice that this is no longer triggering excitement, take notice!
A dog that is feeling weak or tired may not have the energy to enjoy their favorite activities.
#5 – Unexplained Weight Loss
When we eat, the body takes the various nutrients in our food and converts it to the fuel needed by the essential organs such as the brain and heart.
A diabetic dog’s body is unable to convert these nutrients properly.
The body then responds by breaking down fat and muscle for fuel, leading to weight loss.
#6 – Poor Skin and Coat Quality
Another way that the lack of proper nutrients can impact your dog is through the condition of their skin and coat.
Your dog’s coat will lose its shine and start to thin out. You may also notice an increase in shedding.
Their skin will start to dry out from poor hydration, which will cause dandruff in most cases.
#7 – Hungry All the Time
When the body is unable to process glucose properly, the cells in the body aren’t receiving the fuel that they need to function.
As a response, the body believes that it is starving.
This leads to an appetite that can’t be satisfied, with your dog feeling hungry ALL the time.
#8 – Eyes Appear Cloudy
It is estimated that approximately 75% of diabetic dogs will develop cataracts.
This can present as a cloudy spot as small as a dot on the eye right up to the complete eye, looking as though it has clouded over entirely.
#9 – Your Dog Appears Clumsier Than Usual
While some dogs are naturally clumsy, an increase in this clumsy behavior is a red flag.
As cataracts form in a diabetic dog’s eyes, it can have a serious impact on their vision even leading to blindness.
As a result, you may see your dog bumping into or tripping over things more frequently.
#10 – Unexplained Vomiting
While vomiting is less common, it is an important sign to watch out for as it is an indication of a more complicated case of diabetes.
There are many reasons that a dog may vomit ranging from eating something that they shouldn’t to a wide range of other ailments.
However, if you can’t identify a cause for vomiting, it could be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a serious medical emergency that will require immediate veterinary care.
Long-Term Risks of Diabetes
As previously mentioned, researchers have made some great strides in finding an effective way to manage this condition, allowing diabetic dogs to lead a long, happy life.
However, if it is not diagnosed and managed appropriately, there can be some serious long-term risks.
This is why it is so important as a dog owner to familiarize yourself with the signs of diabetes in dogs!
When left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious long-term complications.
One of the most common complications experienced by diabetic dogs is blindness, resulting from the development and progression of cataracts.
Diabetic dogs are at a higher risk of infections from minor injuries or illnesses.
This is due to the fact that high blood sugar levels can have a negative impact on the immune system, lowering your dog’s natural defenses.
They may also experience nerve damage that, over time, can lead to amputations.
In the most serious cases, untreated diabetes can be fatal.
Prevent Diabetes in Your Dog
While there is no guarantee in terms of diabetes prevention, there are steps that you can take to greatly reduce your dog’s risk.
These small lifestyle changes can have a big long-term impact on your dog’s health!
There has been a correlation discovered between unspayed females and diabetes, meaning that an intact female dog is at a much higher risk.
One of the biggest factors that will increase your dog’s risk of diabetes is obesity.
The stress placed on the body by the extra weight can create insulin resistance within the body, preventing the glucose-insulin process from being carried out effectively.
If you know that your dog is overweight, a plan should be put in place to encourage weight loss.
Focus on living a healthy lifestyle by making time for daily exercise.
Pay attention to the food and treats that you are providing to your dogs. High-quality nutrition will help to promote better overall health.
Even with the healthiest lifestyle choices, your dog may still develop diabetes.
This could be a result of age (older dogs are more susceptible) or genetics. Some dogs are predisposed to this condition.
It is important to recognize that this is NOT a reflection of poor ownership.
If you believe that your dog is showing signs of diabetes, don’t panic. Contact your veterinarian to discuss your concerns and establish a plan of action.
With proper care and support, most diabetic dogs are able to enjoy a long, happy life.
Do you have any experience with dogs and diabetes? What have you learned?
About the Author: Britt is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs Daviana and Indiana and their 2 cats Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.