Diabetes is a disruption of sugar metabolism in the body, usually due to a decreased production of the hormone insulin, which is made in the pancreas. Insulin controls the import of blood sugar into the body cells. A lack of insulin provokes an excessive blood sugar level, and increase in sugar excreted in urine. Diabetes can develop as result of the aging process, or in younger animals through the destruction of insulin producing cells by immune cells, in what is known as autoimmune-mediated diabetes.
Insulin, among other things, facilitates the absorption of sugar into the body cells. In the case of an insulin deficiency, the blood sugar levels are too high and as a result, sugar spills into the animal’s urine. Bit by bit, various metabolic disorders may occur. Diabetes mellitus primarily occurs in middle-aged and older dogs, particularly in approximately 80% of unspayed female dogs. A further risk factor is obesity. The disease often remains unnoticed because the symptoms only start showing at a later stage--when the sugar is excreted via urine. Symptoms include an increased urge to urinate, increased drinking, as well as increased appetite—with the unusual change that despite at the dog’s increased appetite, the animal loses weight, resulting in extreme emaciation. In the case of diabetes mellitus, the dog’s general condition rapidly deteriorates. Dogs behave apathetically, and sometimes may vomit and have diarrhea as a result of the condition. In severe cases, the animal may collapse and there may be a clouding of the eye lenses (cataract).
Just like humans, there are several forms of diabetes for dogs. Here, we describe the insulin-dependent varieties of diabetes mellitus. What is known as "primary diabetes mellitus" is characterized by an absolute insulin deficiency. The gland that responsibile for producing insulin, the pancreas, produces too little or no insulin. This can be due to genetic causes and/or be caused by an infection or an autoimmune disease as well. Secondary diabetes mellitus (type III in humans) develops as a result of pancreatic diseases such as pancreatitis, Cushing’s syndrome, or hypothyroidism. Secondary diabetes mellitus can also be caused by drugs such as cortisone. Unspayed females are a separate case. During the estrous cycle females produce a sex hormone that counteracts insulin, and diabetes can develop as a consequence.
A diganosis of diabetes is usually made after a measurement of blood sugar levels. The malfunction of insulin production can be compensated for by exogenous insulin that has to be administered daily. If the medication is well adjusted (the veterinarian has to determine the optimum quantity of insulin for the animal) symptoms can vanish completely. After establishing optimum dosage, blood sugar levels have to be checked regularly. With unspayed female dogs, spaying is a primary therapeutic measure that is taken. In rare cases, this suffices to cure the animal. Without the removal of the ovaries an adjustment of blood sugar levels is impossible because of an insulin-counteracting hormone produced by female dogs. Additionally, a strict adherence to a prescribed diet is essential to the success of the therapy. Finally, If all therapeutic measures are followed, the animal can lead a long and symptom-free life.
If the symptoms mentioned above are occurring, consult your vet as soon as possible. Since obesity supports the development diseases, you should do your best to prevent your animal for becoming excessively obese.