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Think diabetes is just for us people? Think again. Canine diabetes mellitus (also known as sugar diabetes) is on the rise. Whether the numbers are due to an increase in dog obesity or better screening is up for debate. What’s clear is that this disease is fairly common. But the good news is, it’s also treatable and manageable.
As with humans, diabetes means the body isn’t producing enough insulin. Insulin is critical to allow glucose–a simple sugar from food–to pass into the body’s blood cells, where it’s used as fuel for metabolism. Too little glucose in the blood cells is obviously a problem.
The average age when dogs get diabetes is in the six-to-nine year range. Some breeds, such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Keeshonds and Miniature Pinschers are more vulnerable to the disease, although all breeds can get it. Females are three times more likely than males to develop diabetes.
Diabetes can be serious. If left untreated, it can lead to cataracts, liver and bladder problems, weakness, and coma. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms and have your dog tested if you suspect diabetes.
Diabetes is treated with daily insulin injections and diet. If your dog has diabetes, your vet will teach you how to give the injections and store the insulin.
It’s essential to learn exactly when and how much insulin to give, and to stick to the schedule. Otherwise, you could wind up with an overdose of insulin, or a bout of hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood sugar).
Diet will also play a major role in keeping your dog healthy. It’s much harder to control the disease in an overweight dog, even with insulin shots. If your diabetic dog is overweight, you’ll need to manage his diet and make sure he gets enough exercise. Your vet can help you work to get your dog to a healthier weight.
When it’s time to see a vet
Diabetes may develop slowly and can worsen over time. The earlier your dog gets treatment, the better. If you notice these signs continuing for more than a couple days, it’s a good idea to have your vet check them out:
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