In healthy dogs, the hormone insulin produced in the pancreas regulates the blood sugar level: As soon as the blood sugar level rises, it ensures that the cells can absorb the glucose and the blood sugar level drops again. Glucose is nothing more than glucose, which dogs also serve as an important source of energy and which is supplied to the dog’s body through food.
Dogs with diabetes mellitus are either insulin deficient or insulin resistant. In both cases, the insulin cannot work and the glucose builds up in the blood. Dogs with diabetes mellitus therefore suffer from permanently high blood glucose levels. The high blood sugar level damages the blood vessels and affects the blood circulation. Since glucose is not available as a source of energy, the cells burn fats and proteins.
Dog glucose levels are usually between about 60 and 110 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood. From around 120 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood, one speaks of an increased blood sugar level.
A short-term increase in blood sugar level after a meal or during excitement is completely normal and harmless. However, if the blood sugar level does not drop any more and is permanently high, diabetes mellitus is likely.
What exactly causes diabetes in dogs is not yet fully understood. Hereditary predisposition plays a certain role. Because certain breeds, such as the Samoyed, Cairn and Tibetan Terriers, are more often affected by diabetes mellitus than others. Obesity is also a risk factor for diabetes. You should therefore ensure that your dog has a balanced diet and sufficient exercise.
Possible consequences of permanently high blood sugar levels in dogs include:
Very high blood sugar levels (450 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood) can cause a life-threatening sugar coma (diabetic ketoacidosis).
The cataract eye disease can be caused by diabetes mellitus. © ShutterDivision – stock.adobe.com
Diabetes in dogs begins seemingly harmless and therefore often goes unnoticed for a long time. The first signs are:
Since most dogs with diabetes mellitus are of an advanced age, it is often not noticeable that they are less productive and need more rest than before. In the further course, the mentioned secondary diseases can also occur.
However, these symptoms can also indicate other chronic diseases such as kidney failure or Cushing’s disease.
Great thirst is one of the first symptoms of diabetes mellitus. © Taisa Korcak – stock.adobe.com
Diabetes mellitus is diagnosed with certainty if the vet repeatedly measures blood sugar levels of more than 150 mg per deciliter of blood on an empty dog. Repeated measurement is recommended because the blood sugar can also be increased once, for example if the dog has eaten something unnoticed before the blood sample is taken.
For this reason, when diagnosing diabetes, the “long-term blood sugar value”, the fructosamine, is usually also measured. The fructosamine levels are only increased if the blood sugar level has been too high for a long time.
Diabetes mellitus is diagnosed with blood tests. © Elnur – stock.adobe.com
Once diabetes has been diagnosed, the dog must be provided with insulin for life. This is only possible with an injection because insulin cannot be swallowed – it would be digested immediately and would then be ineffective. Therapy with tablets, as in people with certain forms of diabetes, does not work in dogs. Spraying is a little unfamiliar at first, but it soon becomes a matter of course for dogs and humans alike.
Every dog has an individual need for insulin. This is determined as follows:
Basically, blood sugar should be checked regularly in order to identify changes at an early stage. With the modern measuring devices, this is also easily possible at home. A constant daily routine helps to keep the dog’s blood sugar level within the desired limits. Fixed feeding times are particularly important because the insulin is administered shortly after feeding.
Which food is best for a diabetic dog varies. Your vet will give you individual advice and help you choose the right food. In general, however, the following applies:
If the dog loses weight significantly, although he is eating well, this can also indicate diabetes. © Jnis – stock.adobe.com
If the blood sugar level is below 50 milligrams per deciliter of blood, there is dangerous low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). The symptoms of hypoglycaemia are:
Symptoms appear between fifteen to six hours after the last dose of insulin. In these cases you should …
Causes of hypoglycaemia can be:
Heat diabetes in intact bitches is a special form of diabetes, because after heat, the blood sugar level in most of these bitches falls again. If this is not the case, timely castration can prevent diabetes mellitus.
If the bitch is not neutered in time, diabetes mellitus becomes manifest, that is, the bitch becomes incurably diabetic. Bitches who drink a lot during heat or in the subsequent cycle phase and produce large amounts of urine should therefore be examined by a veterinarian immediately.