From the End of the Leash: Diabetes and Dogs

From the End of the Leash: Diabetes and Dogs

Hello there, this is the regal Tiberius, here to share some more kibbles of wisdom. You know, I used to think of blogging as the work of the masses, but I’m really warming up to this gig. Maybe I’m more of a democratic kind of aristocrat.

Anyway, enough about me. What I want to talk about today is the d word. Well, yes, dogs, but also…diabetes. You may have an uncle or a grandma or a cousin with diabetes, but did you know dogs can get it too? Diabetes is a disease that occurs when a body does not make enough or respond as usual to insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, and it controls blood sugar levels. We don’t know how common it is for dogs and cats to get it, though it does seem to vary depending on the type of dog or cat. We do know that in dogs, diabetes is more common in females, and in cats, it’s slightly more common in males. Good for me and Patra, but what about all our friends?

The most common causes of diabetes in dogs, which largely resembles type 1 diabetes in humans, are a dysfunctional immune system that injures the pancreas or inflammation of the pancreas, which is known as “pancreatitis.” Other causes include certain medication such as steroids, or too much of some hormones, which can be a result of a dog not being spayed. Whatever the reason, the dog’s pancreas is unable to make the insulin that’s needed.

Diabetes in kitty cats, however, is more comparable to type 2 diabetes in humans and caused by obesity and a high carb diet which fatigues the pancreas. Steroids can also be a contributing factor.

The good news is that feline diabetes is reversible with insulin therapy, changes in diet to lower carbs and increase protein, and loss of weight. The combination gives the poor pancreas a chance to rest and recover, and as long as the measures are sustained, the disease will not return. The bad news is that diabetes is not curable in dogs. Once a dog has been diagnosed, he will require insulin shots for the rest of his days. Can you say, “Yelp?”

There is hope in the fact that addressing some of the initial causes, spaying females, and treating Cushing’s disease can help keep the disease under control. I have heard cases of doggy friends who have thrived under the care of their loyal humans, two insulin shots a day, and yummy celery treats.

How can you tell if your pooch is at risk? It can be hard to tell, but look for these signs: if he or she is drinking more water than average, urinating more frequently, or is bogged down with low energy levels. Other symptoms are strangely sweet-smelling or fruity breath, cataract formation, and urinary tract infections. Diabetic cats will exhibit similar symptoms and in addition may show signs of degradation in the quality of their fur coat. Also, if you are adopting an older (and wiser) pup from the pound, you may want to keep a special look out. Thanks for hearing me out. Have stories of your own? Throw a guy a bone – in the comments!

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