Diabetes in small dogs

Dogs can develop a number of disorders that reflect similar conditions found in humans. One of these is diabetes, which can be classified in one of two categories – diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. Diabetes mellitus is caused by a deficiency in the production of insulin, a vital hormone that controls sugar metabolism. Diabetes insipidus is less well known, and is caused by a lack of the antidiuretic hormone, vasopressin. This hormone is responsible for controlling the absorption of water by the kidneys, and as a result is characterised by increased frequency of urination and dehydration.

Insulin plays a number of key roles, including the transport of glucose from the bloodstream to body cells where it can be converted into energy. Insulin also prevents excessive levels of glucose in the bloodstream and is involved in storing sugars. Without adequate levels of insulin, blood sugar levels can rise uncontrollably whilst body cells are denied essential glucose, leading to further complications. The production of insulin can be hindered in a number of ways, including disease or damage to insulin producing cells in the pancreas, which leads to diabetes mellitus. However, dogs can also inherit genetic disorders that make them more susceptible to developing diabetes. A number of breeds are particularly vulnerable, including Pulis, Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers and Cairn Terriers.

Fortunately, there are a number of symptoms that indicate diabetes in dogs. Increased hunger, thirst and urination are the first signs of the onset of diabetes, followed by weight loss as the dog’s body begins to break down stored proteins in order to generate energy. If the diabetes continues to go unnoticed, further symptoms can include a lack of energy, loss of appetite and depression. The dog may also become more susceptible to infection due to a weak immune system, and in extreme cases liver and kidney problems may develop.

If you believe that your dog has diabetes, a vet will be able to perform a number of simple tests that will determine whether or not your pet is suffering from the condition. Depending on the severity, these tests may be carried out over a period of time to monitor the fluctuation in blood sugar levels of the dog. The results of these tests will be able to indicate the type of diabetes and how it will be best treated.

There are a number of options available when it comes to controlling and treating diabetes in dogs. Insulin injections are the most common form of treatment, and there are a number of different types of insulin available depending on the dog and stage of the condition. With training, the owner of the dog can be taught how to administer the insulin and what behaviour to look out for to ensure that their pet is responding correctly to the treatment.

Diabetes is most common in older dogs, though as some forms are a result of genetic inheritance, can be found in younger dogs as well. However, with careful monitoring, regular treatment and vigilance, it is quite possible for a dog with diabetes to lead a full and healthy life.

C. D’Artagnan Copyright © 2006 C. D’Artagnan, All Rights Reserved

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