One of the most common diseases or conditions found in adult dogs is diabetes mellitus. It is caused when the endocrine system, most specifically the pancreas, does not produce enough insulin to regulate the blood sugar in the body. This leads to "highs" and "lows" in blood sugar, both which can be life threatening if they are too high or too low.
Thankfully diabetes is a relatively common (about 1 in 500 dogs will be diagnosed with the disease) and easy to diagnose condition in dogs that is usually very easy to manage, although it is not curable. Since the conditions that are problematic in diabetes are the sugar highs and lows in the blood, insulin can be used to maintain the blood sugar at a constant level throughout the day. Typically insulin is given by two injections, one in the morning and one in the evening, as well as feeding several small meals a day to help to balance the blood sugars. Dogs with diabetes should have regular exercise, be kept within the breed recommended weight range, and be provided lots of fresh water throughout the day.
The first onset of diabetes in dogs is usually at around the age of seven years. Owners will notice that the dog seems to have an increasing thirst even in cooler weather and typically has to make more frequent trips outside during the day and even at night. In some instances the dog may start to urinate in the house because they need to go so much more frequently than they have in the past. The condition is much more common in females and may be more pronounced in females that have not been spayed. Some of the smaller breeds of dogs such as Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles and Dachshunds are more prone to the condition however any breed can develop diabetes.
There is a much less common form of diabetes that can be found in puppies, this is much more serious and often is found occurring with other serious health issues within the puppy. Diabetic comas in cases of too much or too little blood sugar and insulin in the body are very common in young puppies and will often result in death before the condition has been diagnosed.
In any dog that has been diagnosed with diabetes watch for signs of dizziness, weakness, disorientation or despondency as these can be the first signs of problems with blood sugar levels. If it is low blood sugar providing sugar immediately is important, and in the case of high blood sugar insulin will be needed to prevent the dog from going into a coma. Talk to your vet about how to test the dog's blood or how to watch for signs of problems in the blood sugar levels.
Unlike humans, simply managing the diet is not usually enough to control diabetes in dogs. Many vets do recommend a change in the diet to a high fiber and high protein diet with reduced fats and carbohydrates. If the dog is obese weight loss will be essential, however in dogs that have actually lost weight it may be important to add more to the diet to help to get their systems back in balance. Careful coordination between diet, medications and exercise will be needed throughout the dog's life. Dogs with diabetes that are monitored and treated can lead happy, normal lives and be wonderful companions and even working dogs.