Diabetes in dogs is a metabolic disease, the symptoms of which usually appear from middle age onwards. As in humans, the disorder, also known as diabetes, comes in two variants with different causes. The hormone insulin, which influences blood sugar levels, plays an important role.
Diabetes mellitus – the full name of the metabolic disorder – is divided into type 1 and type 2 diabetes in humans and dogs. Diabetes is caused by an absolute or relative lack of insulin, increasing blood sugar levels.
If the sugar in the blood is permanently elevated, organ damage can result. Therefore, it is important to know what causes diabetes in dogs and the symptoms so that treatment can be started as early as possible.
Dog with type 1 diabetes: cause insulin deficiency
Your dog has type 1 diabetes mellitus when his pancreas no longer produces enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone responsible for pulling sugar (glucose) out of the blood and transporting it to the body’s cells. The nutrient is converted into energy, which is essential for healthy bodily function. If too little insulin is produced, not enough sugar is removed from the blood – the blood sugar level rises, and diabetes develops.
Occurrence of type 1 diabetes in dogs
Unlike humans, this form of diabetes is most common in dogs. The causes presumably lie in a genetic, i.e. congenital predisposition. However, pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer can also lead to your dog developing diabetes mellitus and not producing enough insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes: what happens in the dog’s body?
If your dog has type 2 diabetes mellitus, his pancreas will produce insulin, but not enough to fuel all of the body’s cells – or, in principle, enough of the hormone will be made, but it won’t work properly. We are then talking about a relative lack of insulin since the substance is not absolutely, i.e. fundamentally, missing, but not enough compared to the need. Dogs rarely contract this form of diabetes and are very different from humans.
Type 2 diabetes in dogs: risk factors
The exact causes of diabetes in dogs have not yet been definitively researched. Still, in type 2, it is assumed that – as in humans – obesity plays a central role in its development. In addition, certain hormone disorders such as Cushing’s syndrome or hypothyroidism are risk factors for diabetes in dogs. You can at least avoid obesity in your four-legged friend and thus prevent the risk of diabetes. Ensure a balanced, species-appropriate dog diet and sufficient exercise.
Heat diabetes in bitches
Another peculiarity about diabetes mellitus in four-legged friends is that mostly bitches suffer from it. This is the so-called heat diabetes – it only affects females who regularly go through their cycle phases and have not been castrated. This is the hormone progesterone; it prepares the uterus for the fertilized eggs to implant in it. In addition, the fertilized egg cells are protected by progesterone during pregnancy. Unfortunately, the hormone prevents insulin from transporting sugar from the blood into the body’s cells. The result is: Your dog gets diabetes.
Not only do pregnant female dogs produce progesterone, but they also bitches in heat. That means, strictly speaking, the hormone is only produced after the heat in the menstrual cycle phase called metoestrus. Now the question arises, why don’t all unneutered bitches get diabetes? This is because insulin production is ramped up during this phase to compensate. Most of the time, it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. With a bit of luck, however, diabetes mellitus is only temporary; only in some cases does it become a chronic lack of insulin. Therefore, consider whether you would rather have your bitch neutered to prevent this.
Symptoms of diabetes in dogs
The earlier diabetes in dogs is recognized and treated, the better. It would help if you were very vigilant about changes to your four-legged friend. These symptoms can indicate diabetes:
● Increased urination: The increased blood sugar level causes sugar molecules to pass into the urine and deprive the body of water. As a result, your diabetic dog will need to pee more often than usual.
● Strong thirst: Since the body is deprived of water, your four-legged friend tries to compensate by drinking more liquid.
● Vision disorders up to and including blindness: the increased blood sugar level damages the blood vessels in the retina in the dog’s eyes.
● Weight loss despite eating more or due to loss of appetite.
● Weight gain is also possible. If you have diabetes, your dog’s metabolism is disturbed.
● Listlessness and listlessness: Diabetes in dogs prevents the body from being supplied with sufficient energy.
● Listlessness, apathy to the point of depression.
● Abdominal pain
Some animals experience hind leg weakness and poor wound healing due to elevated blood sugar levels. If you suspect diabetes, have your dog checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible. If the blood sugar rises too much, it can lead to shock, which in the worst case can put the dog in a coma.