Some middle-aged, senior, or obese dogs develop diabetes. Diabetic dogs don’t produce enough insulin, or they produce it but can’t adequately respond to it. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps cells properly use glucose, which is sugar supplied primarily by carbohydrates in food that helps power the body.
Without insulin or the ability to use it, hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, occurs because too much glucose builds up in the blood. Persistently high blood sugar can cause health problems such as infections, seizures, and nerve and organ damage.
Clues that your dog might have diabetes include:
- making frequent trips to the water bowl and drinking more than usual,
- asking to go outside more often to urinate or having accidents in the house, and
- eating great yet losing weight.
Because dogs with diabetes drink more water and urinate more frequently, they may begin having pee accidents in the house. In my book, It’s Never Long Enough, I share the causes of and how to tell the difference between urinary incontinence—which is involuntary urine leakage—and inappropriate urination, which is deliberate piddling in improper locations. I give tips to help pet parents prevent those startling, wet-sock surprises.
Many diabetic dogs also eventually develop cataracts. High blood sugar clouds the dog’s lenses, so dogs start to have vision trouble. When my diabetic dog, Serissa, was 10 years old, she had cataract removal surgery—shortly after she took a panic-stricken, accidental swim!
Me and Serissa
A cure isn’t available yet, but diabetes can be managed. Helping diabetic dogs maintain proper blood sugar levels involves feeding an appropriate diet, and it usually requires giving an insulin injection under the dog’s skin at a specific time once or twice a day. Pet parents also need to use caution with treat types, amounts, and timing. Regular exercise also helps control blood glucose levels. Diabetic dogs need frequent veterinary checkups, and between visits their blood sugar concentrations can be monitored at home to check whether they’re too high or too low.
Persistently high blood sugar can lead to the problems I mentioned above. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can occur if a dog receives too much insulin or doesn’t eat at the right time in relation to an insulin injection. Dogs with low blood sugar become excessively sleepy or weak, and they can have seizures or become comatose.
If your dog has diabetes, your veterinarian will guide you in all aspects of monitoring and managing this condition, including what to do in case of an emergency. With your care and your veterinarian’s help, pets with diabetes can live long and happily!
Use the Geriatric Dog Health & Care Journal to track your dog’s diabetes, symptoms, glucose levels and insulin administration.