I thought we would do something different today. We receive a lot of questions about canine diabetes mellitus, and it seems to be a commonly confused topic in veterinary medicine for pet owners. Today I wanted to share with you a portion of a Q&A from our ask a vet service. Additional topics were discussed, but for the purpose of this post, I have only included relevant information on diabetes.
Ask a vet a Question:
I have a seven-year old female miniature schnauzer Daisy. Over the past month, I have noticed her drinking more, asking to go out more–just to pee it seems, and she seems to be losing weight. She still has a strong appetite, and seems otherwise normal. I already went to the vet, and they thought it was probably a urinary tract infection and gave her antibiotics. We didn’t do the test because the vet thought it was pretty sure and money is tight, and the antibiotics were expensive enough. We finished the antibiotics but they didn’t seem to help any. What do you think could be wrong?
I am very suspicious that your dog may have a condition called diabetes mellitus. Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a endocrine disease often called “sugar diabetes” because of the dog has an abnormally high blood and urine sugar levels. Diabetes arises when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the hormone that allow the body to use glucose, and in turn, when not enough insulin is produced, there is excessive glucose in the blood, and negative consequences happen.
The most common reason is that the cells of the pancreas that are responsible for insulin production, called beta cells, get destroyed. They usually get destroyed from chronic inflammation of the pancreas, such as flare ups with pancreatitis or chronic GI issues of many kinds. This is Type 1 DM, and is the most common type of DM in dogs, while Type II which arises from insulin resistance is very rare in the dog.
The common clinical signs are why I am suspicious this is what your pooch is suffering from. Increased thirst and urination are the most common signs. The miniature schnauzer is one of the most common breads that we see DM in, and females are more likely to suffer from it than males. The average age of onset is 7-9 years. Other signs are increased appetite and weight loss. This is because even though they are eating more, the body can’t effectively use the glucose because of low insulin levels, so they are in essence starving.
The diagnosis is fairly straight-forward. A significantly elevated fasting blood glucose count is your answer. Usually the urine also shows sugar and may even show ketones when the disease is more advanced. Getting a complete blood cell count, as well as a chemistry panel and a urine test (together should be around $150) is really best to give your vet a more comprehensive look at your pet’s health.
If Daisy is suffering from DM, treatment will likely involve injections of insulin to control her disease. Your vet can help you pick the type of insulin that will work best with Daisy. It may take some experimenting to find the best type and times to give it to her, but most dogs will require twice daily injections. Most dogs do tolerate the injections very well, as the needles are tiny.
In addition, you will need to change her food to a low-fat high-fiber food with complex carbohydrates. You can either cook her food at home, or pick up a prescription diet from her vet or a pet store that carries prescription diets. If her DM is very advanced, she may have to be hospitalized until she is stable. Hopefully that is not the case, as it sounds like she seems fairly normal otherwise and this has only been happening for about one month.
You can speak with your vet about whether you would like to do her blood sugar monitoring at the hospital or at home. With a little education and practice and if you don’t have a squeamish stomach at the site of a drop of blood, you may be able to monitor her blood sugar more easily at home. DM does require close monitoring, as too low or too high of blood sugar can be very dangerous and life threatening.