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Diabetes mellitus is a disease of the endocrine system. It is caused by a deficiency of insulin -- the hormone that regulates how sugar is absorbed and utilized by the cells and tissues of the body. Highest occurences are found in dogs between the ages of 5 to 7, and female dogs appear to be more susceptible. Most affected dogs are obese. It is the most common hormonal disorder in dogs.
Dogs with diabetes usually drink more water, go to the bathroom more frequently (may start to urinate in the house), and can begin to lose weight.
It is a wise practice to have your dog checked yearly by your vet, and urine and blood screens (usually fasting) should be a part of that checkup. If you notice any of the symptoms above visit the vet immediately. The earlier diabetes is detected, the better the chances of successful treatment. The vet will have to perform tests, including a blood test, to diagnose diabetes, and to prescribe the proper dose of insulin to be administered. Undetected/untreated diabetes can lead to greater urinary tract infections and cataracts.
There is no cure for diabetes. If diabetes is found and treatment is required, the treatment will be daily injections of insulin; there are no oral medications available for animals. Your vet will show you the proper way to administer the treatment, and provide a time schedule. Stick to the schedule!
It's very important for you to monitor how your dog responds to the injected insulin dosage. You do that by testing the urine with test strips usually available at drug stores or pet shops. The test strip will tell you how much sugar is present in the dog's system, and you may have to adjust the dosage of insulin based on the results. Have your vet teach you how to use the test kits, what results to look for, and when to administer higher or lower dosages.
Keep a record of the test strips results, amount of insulin given, and your dog's eating behaviors and attitude. This will not only help you understand the dog's condition, but will help your vet if other problems arise.
You need to be strict about what you feed your dog. Foods high in fiber and protein, with restricted fats and carbohydrates are best. Feed your dog at the same times every day as what they eat, and when they eat it, will effect its sugar/insulin levels. One-third of the total daily amount of food should be given 1/2 hour prior to the injection. The remaining amount of food should be given 8-10 hours later. If your dog likes a snack before bedtime take it out of the 2/3rds amount.
Set up an exercise program and stick to it. If you decide to walk your dog, or play catch for 20 minutes every day, you need to be consistent. Exercise will effect the "sugar" levels in the dogs blood stream -- and you don't want that level "up" one day and "down" the next. The "up and down" isn't good for the dog. If your dog is overweight, you'll have to put it on a diet to loose weight slowly.
If your dog is a female, talk to your vet about spaying (if she isn't already). Spaying eliminates the interaction of the female hormones with blood sugar levels and this will help toward stabilizing insulin levels.
Above all, continue to give your "pup" loving attention. He/she doesn't understand why he/she feels the way it does. Dogs want love and attention, and to know they're safe -- that's the easy part.
Visit Washington State University and enter "diabetes" into the search box (or, for that matter, any other question you may have).