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Canine Diabetes: Risk Factors and Management

canine diabetes blog editedDiabetes is recognized as a rapidly increasing human problem, but it’s also becoming more common in pets. Estimates of how many dogs are affected vary, but experts agree, canine diabetes is on the rise. The condition isn’t quite the same in dogs as in people, and effective prevention isn’t as well understood. There seems to be a stronger hereditary component in dogs, and certain disorders, environmental contributors, and other factors that are largely out of your control appear to play a significant role in development of the disease.

While prevention is never a guarantee, you can lower your dog’s risk of developing diabetes. If your dog becomes diabetic, a mostly normal life is still possible. With proper management, most affected dogs maintain a good quality of life. But management requires a good deal of patience, time, effort, and money. Just some of the daily care includes one or two insulin injections, monitoring blood glucose levels, watching for signs of complications, and a careful diet given on a strict regimen. Such commitments make prevention highly appealing.

Risk Factors for Canine Diabetes

Understanding the risk factors for canine diabetes is key to prevention. Some are out of your control, some can affect decisions about what type of dog to get, and others are manageable. There’s not much you can do about genetic dispositions, other than researching a dog’s bloodline prior to adoption or purchase. Aging is a primary risk factor, too; most dogs develop diabetes in middle or later years.

Females are more prone to the condition than males, as are mixed breeds dogs. Australian terriers, dachshunds, Keeshonds, poodles, Samoyeds, and schnauzers are some breeds at higher risk. The presence of an autoimmune disease or chronic pancreatitis makes diabetes more likely. Long-term use of certain drugs, including glucocorticoids and some hormones, causes diabetes in a low percentage of treated animals. The most controllable risk factor is obesity. Overweight or obese dogs seem to be at greater risk for diabetes.

Managing Your Dog’s Weight to Prevent Diabetes

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is the best way to minimize her risk of canine diabetes. Talk to your veterinarian about what a “healthy weight” means for your pet; don’t make assumptions. Ask for advice on daily caloric intake and an appropriate exercise routine.

See to it that your dog exercises on at least most days of the week. Feed her a balanced diet that provides all the nutrients she needs without an excess of calories. Opt for a high-grade commercial pet food. If you make your own dog food, be sure you understand your dog’s nutritional needs and what foods are suitable. Watch how many extra calories you supply with treats; it doesn’t take many to lead to weight gain. Similarly, watch how much people food you offer and avoid giving fatty foods that are high in calories and that contribute to inflammation of the pancreas, a risk factor for diabetes.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Nicole February 19, 2013, 12:02 pm

    I have had 2 Dogs with Diabetes. The first one was a Bichone who develpoed it from Table Scraps and Foods that He should not of eaten. Something which I will never do again. He died at a very Young age of 10. It was Heart-Breaking. Then I got Purebred Coton De Tulear which is a Breed that is not over-populated in the U.S. who has been given the Best Vet. care for his 11 Years. He was diagnosed when He was 9 and had been on only Food from the Vet. No Human Foods or Cheap Store bought Food. But I saw the signs immediately and sure enough there I had a second Dog with it. Also none of His Sibblings or Parents had Diabetes so it just goes to show that You can do everything right and still get Diabetes. Also it is very expensivie with the Syringes, Insulin, Glucose Tests, Prescription Food and the List goes on. However I knew when I got Him that He would get the Best Care no matter the cost as that is what Responsible Pet Owners do. We just hope that we have MANY more Years with Him to share. He will be 12 this coming August!

  • Juan February 19, 2013, 12:55 pm

    I have a lab mix. She is now 12 years old, weighs 77lbs, and has two daily injections of 27 units of insulin each. She was diagnosed with diabetes about a year ago. I had never experienced this disease before, so I didn’t recognize the symptoms and almost lost her. Based on your article it seems that she might have contracted the disease because of her estrogen treatment that she’s been on since she was a very young pup. I got her at the Humane Society and they had spayed her at 7 weeks, which complicated her estrogen levels. Now at 12 she’s doing well with the diabetes, however, I’m concerned about neuropathy which she has developed. Can you provide me any information on this condition or direct me to websites about this matter because it’s a problem I’m contending with as I treat her. I’m also concerned about the fact that she seems to be becoming “resistant” to her insulin. I’m having to increase the units to control her BG levels and keep them in the 100 to 300 range, but she tends to begin to spike more often then not. Any thoughts and comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • VetDepot February 20, 2013, 10:29 am

      Juan, the best source for information regarding any concerns you’re having with your dog’s treatment plan would be a veterinarian. Sorry we can’t be of more help, we wish you and your dog the best!

  • Nayda Torres February 19, 2013, 4:58 pm

    I have a nine year old male Shitzhu. He drinks a lot I f water. What are the symptoms for diabetes in our digs?

    • VetDepot February 20, 2013, 10:25 am

      Nayda, symptoms of canine diabetes include frequent urination, increased water consumption, a big appetite and unexplained weight loss. However, these symptoms aren’t unique to diabetes and you should always discuss any questions or concerns you have with your dog’s veterinarian.

  • Laureen February 19, 2013, 5:24 pm

    Nicole, I worry about my 20 yr old Brussels Griffon. He is overweight at 20 lbs, but is stubborn. When I first rescued him 4 years ago, he weighed 32 pounds. Ridiculous! He wheezed just breathing.

    I worry about him and Diabetes. I was so glad to read that you have made the committment to your dog to care for him no matter what. I have done that in the past with my 3 aging 15 year old Boston Terriers, and I had to provide IV fluids, vitamin shots, valium applications for seizures, many pills each day, and a special home cooked diet. I know what it takes to honor your committment to your pet friend. It is so good to know people like you are out there. Thanks for sharing your info, and good luck with your dog.

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