Diabetes can be a challenging condition to manage, especially in pets that cannot verbally communicate how they feel. Recognizing the symptoms of diabetes in dogs can help pet owners manage their dog’s disease more easily, avoiding severe complications that could become life-threatening.
Diabetes – more formally known as Diabetes mellitus – is when a dog’s body does not make enough insulin or has an abnormal reaction to insulin. Insulin is responsible for transporting glucose (sugar) into the body’s cells for energy. With diabetes, however, glucose builds up in the blood because there is not enough insulin to move it into the cells, or the insulin is not effective. Without this source of energy, the cells can starve.
In dogs, diabetes is more common in middle-aged or older pets, as well as obese dogs. Females are more likely to develop diabetes than males, but their risk is reduced if bitches are spayed. While any dog can develop diabetes, some breeds are more susceptible to the condition, including cocker spaniels, dachshunds, German shepherds, golden retrievers, Pomeranians, terriers, toy poodles, keeshonds, and Samoyeds.
Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs
A dog with diabetes can show a variety of symptoms. While these symptoms are similar for different conditions, the top 10 symptoms of diabetes in dogs are:
- Unquenchable thirst with associated increased urination. If a dog is drinking a lot but failing to pass urine, different kidney or bladder illnesses may be present.
- Weight loss despite an increased appetite. Dogs with diabetes will eat more to attempt to get more energy, but the food is not being properly absorbed into their cells.
- Loss of appetite. Despite the dog’s urge to eat more to gain energy, the animal may lose its appetite as its energy levels continue to drop.
- Cloudy eyes or cataracts. Diabetes often affects the delicate blood vessels of the eyes, and if left untreated, can lead to blindness.
- Loss of energy. Because sugar isn’t getting into the dog’s cells, they may become more lethargic, sleep more, or otherwise seem out of energy.
- Depressed attitude. With less energy, the dog may have less interest even in its favorite activities or games.
- Chronic skin or urinary infections. This might be seen as a dull, lackluster coat, hair loss, or dry and flaky skin that may cause itching.
- Vomiting with no apparent cause. As diabetes progresses, it may cause occasional vomiting that isn’t related to a food change or other illness.
- Sweet-smelling breath. Advanced diabetes can lead to ketoacidosis. The easiest symptom to detect is a sweetish odor to the dog’s breath.
- Muscle weakness. With more severe cases of diabetes, muscle weakness can also become joint stiffness and may even lead to seizures.
Though several of these symptoms could indicate a wide variety of conditions or diseases, if a dog starts to show multiple indications of diabetes, especially if the dog has risk factors for the disease, it is best to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.
Preventing Diabetes in Dogs
While there is a genetic component to diabetes and it may not be possible to completely prevent the disease, it is possible to lower the risk and make it easier to manage for any dog. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight and providing proper exercise is essential, and the dog’s diet should be nutritious, without a lot of unhealthy, high-calorie fillers. If the dog has other health conditions, it is important to avoid long-term steroid use, which could make diabetes more complicated. For female dogs, being spayed can dramatically lower the risk of diabetes.
Staying alert to a pet’s health is the best way to monitor and manage diabetes in dogs. When symptoms appear, fast treatment can make a great difference in controlling the disease and ensuring your pet has a long and happy life.