Diabetes mellitus affects dogs of any age, but early detection is the best thing to ensure your dog continues living a healthy, happy life. Yearly wellness visits are important for early disease detection in dogs, but if you know the symptoms and signs of diabetes in dogs, you can identify the problem between checkups and bring it to your doctor’s attention.
Common Overlapping Symptoms
Some of the symptoms of diabetes in dogs overlap with other diseases. Diabetes as well as other diseases are linked to increased thirst and urination. Whereas, hyperthyroidism and a few cancers cause increased hunger.
Whenever you are in doubt, take your dog to the vet for a full evaluation.
Increased Urination and Increased Drinking
You may start to see puddles on the floor or notice the dog is trying to get outside of the house more to pee. Increased urination, called polyuria, is one of the common reasons that owners bring their dogs in for an evaluation.
Polyuria is caused by the blood sugar spilling from the bloodstream into the pee. There’s a renal threshold where the kidneys no longer filter glucose quickly enough to keep it in the blood, and it leaks out into the urine. When this happens, it pulls water with it and your dog will start to urinate more.
Excessive thirst is linked to an increase in urination, but not in the way you might think. Owners will think the dogs are urinating more because they drink more, however, it’s the other way around. As your dog pees more and more, they start to become dehydrated, so they start drinking larger and larger amounts of water to try and stay hydrated.
Diabetic dogs may develop insatiable appetites. This is a symptom that vets tribute to the imbalance of insulin, which is a hormone created by the pancreas to assist and control blood sugar. Because they like insulin, they are hungry most of the time. Their body cannot understand that it has glucose, so it thinks it’s starving and is always trying to eat things.
Some conditions cause weight loss in dogs, including gastrointestinal disease, cancer, and kidney or liver disease. When gradual or sudden weight loss is coupled with a normal appetite, it can be a sign of diabetes.
When insulin is not working to get glucose into the heart, brain and other essential organs for energy, bodies start to break down fat and muscle to use those proteins and fat instead, which leads to weight loss.
Watch for cataracts in your dog. They are one of the common long-term complications seen in dogs that have diabetes.
In healthy dogs, the lens absorbs glucose from the eye fluid and changes the excess into sorbitol. When there is a lot of glucose, then a large amount of sorbitol gets produced. Sorbitol pulls strongly on water, so water goes into the lens and causes a distortion of the fibers which block light from passing through. This causes your dog’s eyes to look cloudy.
As a result of cataracts forming, dogs who are diabetic are at an increased risk for blindness. Cataracts that completely prevent light from reaching the retinas on the back of the eye cause vision loss. There is good news, however. If secondary inflammation from the cataracts is under control, most dogs who are blind do well because they have an excellent sense of smell and hearing and are able to adapt to their environment.
And, in some cases, blindness can even be surgically reversed, by the removal of the abnormal lens.
Cataract formation in blindness occurs over a period of weeks to months, or in as little as 24 hours. It also happens either late or early during diabetes.
Skin and Coat Changes
Keep an eye on your dog’s skin and coat. Diabetic dogs who are left untreated tend to have poor skin and coat quality. When their body does not get the nutrition they need because insulin doesn’t work, and your dog becomes chronically dehydrated from the increased water loss in the urine, their coat often starts to lose its luster and thin out. Then, your dog might start to have dandruff and scaly, dry skin.
You can improve these skin and coat conditions with insulin therapy. If you do this, there is enough healthy nutrition to put towards other areas, and not just to maintain critical organ functioning.
Be cautious if your dog is vomiting for no reason. This could mean diabetic ketoacidosis.
Keep in mind that early intervention makes a big difference. Learning to spot the signs of diabetes in dogs and communicate with your veterinarian will help you do this.