Would you recognize canine diabetes symptoms in your dog? It pays to become familiar with the warning signs!
Diabetes is an increasingly common disease in dogs and people, now affecting about one in every 150 dogs.
Is your dog at risk? And what is the risk to Miniature Schnauzer health? What treatments are available and what can you do to avoid this disease?
What is Diabetes?
The energy that body cells rely on to power them comes from blood glucose. Glucose can only get into cells with the help of the hormone insulin, normally produced by the pancreas.
In diabetes this mechanism is disrupted, which can happen in one of two ways…
Canine diabetes mellitus
Canine diabetes mellitus, or Type I diabetes, is where the pancreas stops producing enough insulin to cope with the body’s glucose load. So this type of diabetes will respond to insulin injections. This is also the type most commonly seen in dogs.
Canine diabetes insipidus
Canine diabetes insipidus, or Type II diabetes, is where there is sufficient insulin available, but the body cells become less able to respond to it to let glucose in.
Canine Diabetes Symptoms
EARLY CANINE DIABETES SYMPTOMS
Early canine diabetes symptoms all stem from the inability of cells to get the glucose energy they need to function.
Hunger and weight loss
So, while there may be plenty of available glucose in the blood, the cells are starving. As a result, while the dog will be hungry, and eat more than usual, it will lose weight.
Increased drinking and urination
The body gets rid of excess glucose by using water to flush it out into the urine. So a common canine diabetes symptom is increased drinking and peeing.
Weakness and depression
Low cell glucose means low cell energy. So a common canine diabetes symptom is weakness. And because the brain is a big glucose user, the animal will also be depressed and lethargic.
LATER CANINE DIABETES SYMPTOMS
The excess glucose circulating the blood can infiltrate the lens of the eye, causing it to go cloudy and form cataracts. This can happen very rapidly leading to relatively sudden blindness in some dogs with diabetes.
Loss of appetite
As the disease progresses, untreated dogs become too weak and sick to eat. They will be very depressed and may also vomit.
Kidney, heart, liver and brain disease
Naturally, the hardest working organs in the body need the most glucose to function normally. So in the untreated diabetic dog, serious degeneration and failure of the kidney, heart, liver and brain can develop, leading eventually to coma and death in severe cases.
At the risk of such severe complications it is imperative to seek a veterinary diagnosis as soon as you notice any signs that look like canine diabetes symptoms in their early stages.
The key to diagnosing diabetes is the presence of excessive glucose in the blood and urine. Because of normal fluctuations in blood sugar after and between meals, it can take several tests to be sure.
Canine Diabetes Causes and Risk Factors
As we have seen, today about one in every 150 dogs will develop diabetes. Back in 1970 only one in every 526 dogs got it! What’s going on? Could processed convenience dog foods have something to do with it? We’ll discuss that hot topic under “control”, below.
But first, what are the main risk factors for canine diabetes?
While dogs of any age can get diabetes, it is usually seen in middle aged to older dogs between 7 to 9 years of age.
Female dogs, particularly if they are unspayed, are twice as likely to get diabetes as male dogs.
The risk of developing canine diabetes mellitus is higher in overweight dogs. Either over feeding or a high fat and sugar diet can be to blame.
Many commercial dog foods contain high levels of processed fats and sugars (eg corn, sugar and sorbitol), so
feeding a natural diet
and keeping your dog slim is a wise preventative strategy.
Damage to the pancreas
If the pancreas is damaged or diseased, its insulin production can be compromised (canine diabetes mellitus). Causes include viruses, immune disease, steroid drugs, and inflammatory disorders (pancreatitis).
Natural progestagen hormones in unspayed female dogs between heats or the use of synthetic progestagens can precipitate diabetes.
These reproductive hormones both overstimulate insulin production by the pancreas (leading to pancreatic exhaustion and canine diabetes mellitus) and cause body cells to lose their responsiveness to insulin (canine diabetes insipidus).
Under the influence of cortisol, one of the stress hormones, fat cells become less sensitive to insulin (canine diabetes insipidus).
Some dog breeds show a higher risk of diabetes, indicating that there’s a genetic predisposition for it too.
In one US study involving 180,000 insured dogs, the highest incidence of developing canine diabetes mellitus was reported in the following breeds: Australian Terriers, Samoyeds, Swedish Elkhounds, and Swedish Lapphunds. Other pedigree analysis studies have confirmed a genetic predisposition in Keeshonds and Samoyeds.
Though it hasn’t yet been proven, other studies involving smaller numbers of dogs report a higher incidence in the Cairn Terrier, Keeshond, Puli, and Miniature Pinscher.
Inconclusive research confounded by breed popularity also suspect the Alaskan Malamute, Beagle, Chow Chow, Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher, English Springer Spaniel, Finnish Spitz, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Schnauzer, Old English Sheepdog, Poodle, Schipperke and West Highland White are possibly at higher risk.
How long will my diabetic dog live?
With early diagnosis, the average survival for dogs with diabetes is two years. Remember, most dogs are around 8 years of age when they are first affected.
Apart from premature death, dogs with diabetes are at higher risk of cataracts, infections (especially bladder) and pancreatitis.
Prevention and Management of Canine Diabetes Symptoms
Dogs with diagnosed diabetes will require your veterinarian’s monitoring and help with management. They may also need twice daily insulin injections under the skin that dedicated owners will need to learn to administer themselves.
And of course, if they are overweight, they will need to go on a diet and exercise programme until their ideal weight is achieved.
Feed a natural diet
Commercial dog food, no matter how expensive, is processed. And we all know processed foods are harmful! For a start they contain heat treated, unnatural fats.
In the absence of natural essential oils in the diet, the body is forced to make its cells with these fats, causing problems throughout the body.
For example, fats are an important building block of cell walls. As they are warped by processing they fit poorly, diminishing the function of cell walls and leading to problems taking in glucose (canine diabetes insipidus).
As discussed above, many commercial dog foods contain sugar, which overstimulates the pancreas to produce insulin, leading to its eventual exhaustion (canine diabetes mellitus).
So, to prevent diabetes or manage it in a diabetic dog, stick to a raw, natural unprocessed diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates.
Several small meals at scheduled times of the day are recommended.
Helpful herbs and supplements
Recommended herbal remedies include bilberry, stinging nettle, garlic, Fenugreek, chromium (found in brewer’s yeast), and olive leaves. Vitamin C helps the immune system and Vitamin E reduces the need for insulin.
To remain healthy, fit and at their ideal weight, all dogs need regular daily exercise.
In the diabetic dog exercise must be very consistent – the same type and amount of exercise at the same time each day.
This is because exercise promotes increased blood circulation and stimulates glucose uptake into cells. So exercise can cause a drop in blood sugar that can be dramatic if not anticipated and managed for.
Proper diet, medication and exercise will hopefully keep your pet healthy and living a long, happy life.