Signs of Diabetes in Dogs
The classic symptoms of diabetes in dogs are excessive thirst, increased urination, and weight loss despite normal or increased food consumption. Acute-onset blindness resulting from cataracts can also be a sign.
The diagnosis is easy to confirm with simple tests for glucose (sugar) in the blood and urine.
Other test results linked to diabetes include ketones in the urine, increased liver enzymes, hyperlipidemia (elevated cholesterol and/or triglycerides), an enlarged liver, protein in the urine, elevated white blood cells due to secondary infections, increased urine specific gravity resulting from dehydration, and low blood phosphorus levels.
Canine diabetes may be complicated or uncomplicated. Complicated cases, in which the patient is ill, not eating, or vomiting, require hospital care. Fortunately, most cases are uncomplicated and can be treated at home.
Dogs at Highest Risk for Diabetes
What causes diabetes in dogs? Diabetes is one of the most common endocrine diseases affecting middle-aged and senior dogs, with 70 percent of patients older than seven at the time of diagnosis. Diabetes in puppies hardly exists – diabetes rarely occurs in dogs younger than one year of age, and it is more common in females and neutered males than in intact males.
Keeshonds, Pulis, Cairn Terriers, Miniature Pinschers, Poodles, Samoyeds, Australian Terriers, Schnauzers, Spitz, Fox Terriers, Bichon Frise, and Siberian Huskies may be at higher risk. Because of these breed connections, researchers speculate that the development of diabetes may have a genetic component.
An estimated 50 percent of canine diabetes cases are likely linked to pancreatic damage caused by autoimmune disorders.These disorders have many possible causes, including genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Many holistic veterinarians speculate that they may be linked to overstimulation of the immune system from multiple vaccinations, processed foods, and other environmental insults.
Extensive pancreatic damage resulting from chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) may contribute to diabetes in 30 percent of canine cases. Pancreatic disease can also cause exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, or EPI, resulting in a deficiency of digestive enzymes. When a dog develops both EPI and diabetes, the diabetes typically appears several months before symptoms of EPI.
An estimated 20 percent of canine patients develop insulin resistance from other conditions, such as Cushing’s disease and acromegaly (too much growth hormone), or from the long-term use of steroid drugs, such as prednisone. In females, insulin
resistance may accompany the heat cycle, or gestational diabetes may occur during pregnancy. In these cases, symptoms may disappear when the heat cycle or pregnancy ends. Diabetes may also resolve when steroids are discontinued or Cushing’s disease
Though many people assume otherwise, there is actually no clear evidence that obesity causes diabetes in dogs. However, obesi ty can contribute to insulin resistance, making it more difficult to regulate overweight dogs with diabetes. Obesity is also a risk factor for pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes.