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CANINE: Diabetes



Diabetes Mellitus – Principles of Treatment in Dogs


What is diabetes mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus is caused by the failure of the pancreas to regulate blood sugar. In the dog, diabetes mellitus is usually Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (also called Type 2 Diabetes). This type of diabetes usually results from destruction of most or all of the beta-cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. As the name implies, dogs with this type of diabetes require insulin injections to stabilize blood sugar levels.


Some people with diabetes take insulin shots, and others take oral medication. Is this true for dogs?

In humans, there are two types of diabetes mellitus. Both types are similar in that there is a failure to regulate blood sugar, but the basic mechanisms of disease differ somewhat between the two.

"Type I Diabetes Mellitus is the most common type of diabetes in dogs."

Type I

Diabetes Mellitus (sometimes also caused Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus), results from total or near-complete destruction of the beta-cells. This is the most common type of diabetes in dogs. As the name implies, dogs with this type of diabetes require insulin injections to stabilize blood sugar.

Type II

Diabetes Mellitus (sometimes called Non-insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus), is different because some insulin-producing cells remain. However, the amount of insulin produced is insufficient, there is a delayed response in secreting it, or the tissues of the dog's body are relatively resistant to it (also referred to as insulin resistance). Type II diabetes may occur in older obese dogs. People with this form may be treated with an oral drug that stimulates the remaining functional cells to produce or release insulin in an adequate amount to normalize blood sugar. Unfortunately, dogs tend not to respond well to these oral medications and usually need some insulin to control the disease.


How is diabetes mellitus treated in dogs? Is treatment expensive?

Dogs with diabetes mellitus require one or more daily insulin injections, and almost all require some sort of dietary change. In general, they must be fed the same food in the same amount on the same schedule every day.  Although the dog can go a day or so without insulin and not have a crisis, this should not be a regular occurrence; treatment should be looked upon as part of the dog's daily routine. This means that you, as the dog's owner, must make both a financial commitment and a personal commitment to treat your dog. If are out of town or go on vacation, your dog must receive proper treatment in your absence. Once your dog is well regulated, the treatment and maintenance costs are minimal. The special diet, insulin, and syringes are not expensive. However, the financial commitment may be significant during the initial regulation process, or if complications arise.


Initially, your dog may be hospitalized for a few days to deal with any immediate crisis and to begin the insulin regulation process. The "immediate crisis" is only great if your dog is so sick that it has quit eating and drinking for several days. Dogs in this state, called diabetic ketoacidosis, may require a several days of intensive care. Otherwise, the initial hospitalization may be only for a day or two while the dog's initial response to insulin injections is evaluated. . At that point, your dog returns home for you to administer medication. At first, return visits are required every three to seven days to monitor progress. It may take a month or more to achieve good insulin regulation.


"It is important that you pay close attention to all instructions related to administration of medication, diet, and home monitoring."


The financial commitment may again be significant if complications arise. Your veterinarian will work with you to try to achieve consistent regulation, but some dogs are difficult to keep regulated. It is important that you pay close attention to all instructions related to administration of medication, diet, and home monitoring. One serious complication that can arise is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which can be fatal. This may occur due to inconsistencies in treatment.






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