Diabetes mellitus

What happens when your dog cant handle sugar.

The disease diabetes mellitus, also called sugar diabetes, results from a deficiency of or decreased response to insulin. The pancreas produces insulin, which helps body tissues process glucose (sugar). Without enough insulin or with a decreased response to insulin, blood glucose levels rise, resulting in hyperglycemia, while the body tissues remain starved for glucose. The elevated blood glucose eventually passes into the urine, creating a condition called glycosuria. As the disease progresses, metabolism changes cause ketosis, a condition in which chemicals called ketones accumulate in the blood and body tissues.

There are two types of diabetics. In Type I or insulin-dependent diabetics, the pancreas doesnt produce enough insulin, requiring an outside source of insulin. Nearly all diabetic dogs are Type I diabetics. Type II or noninsulin-dependent diabetics dont require an outside source of insulin. The pancreas produces insulin, but not enough of it, and the insulin is released slowly. To compound the problem, the body tissues dont respond normally to the hormone.

Risk Factors and Detection
Diabetes mellitus affects dogs of any age, but its most common in middle-aged to older female dogs. Obesity increases the risk of diabetes mellitus. Genetics also play a role. Some dog breeds including golden retrievers, poodles, Keeshonds, pulis, cairn terriers, miniature pinschers, miniature schnauzers, dachsunds, and beagles are predisposed to diabetes mellitus.

Any factors that interfere with insulin production or action increase the risk of diabetes mellitus. Some examples are female estrus (heat) and pregnancy hormones, glucocorticoids[[corticosteroids?]] and certain hormones (megestrol acetate and progesterone), and diseases such as Cushings syndrome and acromegaly. Diseases that destroy pancreatic cells, such as pancreatitis and viral infections, also cause diabetes mellitus.

Signs of diabetes mellitus include the following:

  • increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • increased appetite
  • weight loss
  • blindness (cataract formation in dogs)
  • a change in stance

As the disease becomes more advanced, you might notice these symptoms:

  • decreased appetite
  • vomiting
  • lethargy
  • dehydration

These last four signs occur as ketones accumulate in the blood and tissues a condition that can be life-threatening. If you notice these signs in your pet, see your veterinarian immediately. Your doctor will perform a complete physical examination and use blood and urine tests to diagnose diabetes mellitus and identify any other diseases.

Prevention and Treatment
Consistent exercise helps prevent obesity and pancreatitis, thus heading off diabetes mellitis. It also encourages weight loss in obese pets, helps regulate blood glucose levels, and reduces the need for insulin. If you know your pets exercise level will change significantly (during hunting season, for example), talk to your veterinarian. She can suggest diet and insulin adjustments to avoid low blood glucose levels during periods of increased exercise.

Diet plays an important part in regulating diabetes, and your veterinarian can recommend a specific food. But in general, if your dog isnt overweight, offer a diet you know he will eat, and feed him a set amount to keep the calories consistent. For overweight pets, gradual weight loss over a few months will help regulate blood glucose levels. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a food thats low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates and fiber.

Treatment for diabetes mellitus often includes several components. The first step is stabilizing the diabetic pet if ketones have accumulated in the blood and tissues. If your pet is ketotic, he will need hospitalization and intravenous fluids to correct dehydration and stabilize his condition.

The next step is regulating blood glucose levels with insulin. Insulin injections are the most common and successful treatment for insulin-dependent diabetic pets. Pets may need injections once or twice a day, depending on the insulin used and the pets response. If the veterinarian diagnoses diabetes in your dog, she will conduct a series of blood glucose tests to determine how long the effects of insulin will last, how well insulin lowers your pets blood glucose level, and when the highest and lowest blood glucose levels occur.

By charting this information as a blood glucose curve, the veterinarian can tailor your pets insulin therapy. Periodic follow-up visits to chart new blood glucose curves help your veterinarian monitor the therapys effectiveness. Your veterinarian may ask you to monitor the glucose and ketone levels in your pets urine at home with a simple dipstick test. If ketones appear in the urine, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

Its important to treat any other diseases in diabetic pets. These pets have a compromised immune system and are more susceptible to infections. Antibiotics may help treat secondary infections, such as urinary tract infections, which are common in diabetic pets.

The final treatment component is surgery. Spaying females as soon as their diabetes is regulated keeps estrus and pregnancy hormones from interfering with the bodys insulin. Spaying females early on can help prevent the onset of diabetes in the first place.

A possible complication of treating diabetes mellitus is hypoglycemia, an abnormally low blood glucose level. This may occur for several reasons, including not eating, participating in strenuous exercise, or accidentally receiving an overdose of insulin. If blood sugar falls too low, your pet may seem weak and uncoordinated, or he may experience a seizure. Always keep a high-sugar solution (Karo syrup, for example) on hand to feed your pet or to rub on his gums. If your pet is having a seizure, dont try to force him to swallow anything. Call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic immediately.

In dogs, diabetes mellitus is permanent and requires lifelong therapy with insulin. Complications such as cataracts may develop, but diabetic pets generally live a good life and have a normal life span.