Doggy Diabetes Bearing away sweetness… silently

Doggy Diabetes Bearing away sweetness… silently

Diabetes is one of the prevailing diseases in the Indian pet scenario. Along with the increase in pet parenting, there also has been a sharp rise in specialized care. Now detecting diabetes is just a prick away. “Earlier the detection, better the cure,” is the golden rule for treating this ailment. Here’s some information about types of diabetes and its diagnosis.

The internal clinical data from 1968 to 2006 showed a ratio of 1 diabetic dog in 200 screened but the recent situation shows a ratio of 1 diabetic dog in every 50 screened. Seeing the fathom of the problem, we cannot ignore the role of responsible pet parenting to avoid the incidences of diabetes in our pooch.

Types of Diabetes

We can broadly classify diabetes in two types: Diabetes Mellitus (DM) and Diabetes Insipidus. But DM is one of the most common endocrine conditions seen in dogs. This disease requires a lot of care, commitment and hardwork from both the vet and the pet parent.

A long but aspiring fight…to win

Diabetes mellitus is a disease of the endocrine system. It is found commonly in middle-aged dogs usually between 7 and 9 years. Most females, who have not been spayed, are at higher risk of the disease (66%) due to hormonal influence. Neutered females and males are less commonly affected but obese pooches are also prone to it. DM is caused by an insulin deficiency. Insulin is the hormone that regulates how sugar is absorbed and utilized by the cells and tissues of the body. Without insulin, sugar can accumulate in the blood stream, causing a number of undesirable effects. When the level of sugar reaches approximately twice its normal level in the blood, some of it spills over into the urine.

Devil…has two faces

Diabetes mellitus are of two main types…Type I and Type II.

Type I : In this, there is total loss of beta cells, which are present in the pancreas, which are responsible for secreting insulin. This represents the most common form of DM in dogs. And the pet then has to be maintained on insulin given externally for the rest of his life. This destruction of beta cells can happen because of the following reasons:

  • Immune mediated disease – The dog must be genetically predisposed to diabetes and various environmental factors, such as drug administration or exposure to infective agent is required to trigger development of antibodies against beta cells. Thereby a slow progressive loss of beta cells begins. This remains sub-clinical in the early stages but will eventually result in the development of typical symptoms associated with DM.
  • Genetic pre-disposition.
  • Pancreatitis, acute or chronic pancreatitis are common conditions in the dog. But are rare causes of DM in dogs.
  • Prolonged exposure to insulin antagonist hormones.

Type II : This type of DM is characterized by resistance to insulin rather than the loss of beta cells. These dogs may initially be non-insulin dependent but ultimately become Type I insulin dependent diabetics. This resistance to or inhibition of insulin secretion may occur as a result of over eating and obesity, elevated levels of growth hormone or the administration of glucocoticocoids and thyroxine. 

Detecting early… for better treatment

The onset of diabetes is usually very gradual and the owner misses the symptoms until the disease is quite advanced. So being a guardian, it’s our duty to keep a health check on them. And minutely observe them for symptoms, like :

  • Dogs start drinking lots of water and urinate very frequently. This happens due to high sugar content in the urine.
  • Pets may eat well and in some cases may overfeed but they may actually lose weight. These pets become hungrier because they cannot utilize the sugar present in their blood as this disease results in interference with proteins, fat, carbohydrate metabolism, so there’s weight loss.
  • Cataract development is seen and there may be signs of retinal hemorrhages as well.
  • General debility is noticed and in 50% of the cases, liver enlargement may also be detected.

As the condition progresses, the clinical picture also changes. The initial signs of polyphagia, polyuria and polydypsia may be superseded as the patient develops ketoacidosis and becomes depressed and anorexic, vomits and exhibits dehydration. The breath may have a sweet smell of acetone. The development of ketoacidosis should be viewed as a serious progression of the disease and if left untreated, will lead to diabetic coma and death.

Diagnosing dangers…

If owners find such symptoms, still you don’t have to panic since the above signs may also be found as symptoms of a host of different diseases, for example kidney failure, pyometra, liver problems, drug side affects (steroids, progesterone), Diabetes insipidus etc. Therefore proper diagnostic techniques need to be applied to reach a conclusion.

  • The history of the animal will provide vet with the symptoms of excessive water and food intake. And then a confirmation of the same can be reached by measuring the water intake over a 24-hour period.
  • Analysis of the urine will reveal the presence of glucose. Urinary tract infection as a secondary complication is common in diabetic patients.
  • A persistently elevated fasting blood glucose level above the renal threshold of 10-20mmol/l.
  • A complicated case with ketoacidosis will show the presence of a sweet smell on the breath.


Elevations in the levels of kidney function test values are commonly encountered. If your pet suffers from diabetes, don’t lose hope because it can be controlled by proper treatment and cure. To know more, look forward to our next issue – Jan/Feb 08.

(Dr. Kamaldeep Chaggar is a 2nd generation vet; she did her graduation in veterinary science from PAU, Ludhiana and worked with clinics in London and USA. She has also authored several articles on pets and is a regular on radio and TV pet shows.) (To be continued…)

– by Dr. Kamaldeep Chaggar

 

 

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