An estimated one in every 300 American dogs suffers from diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes in dogs is on the rise, and veterinarians agree much of it can be tied to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
Older dogs – those between 4-14 years old – are more likely than other dogs to be diagnosed. That said, any dog can develop diabetes, and being overweight, having ongoing conditions like gum disease, or being pregnant can up the risk.
Diabetes in dogs is a complex illness. It’s very treatable over the lifetime of your dog, but treatment is most successful when the disease is caught early. Diabetes monitoring is just one of the many reasons it’s so important to have your dog examined by a veterinarian at least once a year. Here’s a helpful guide from the American Veterinary Medical Association to help you understand exactly what diabetes is and how you can both treat and prevent it.
So, how do you know your dog is developing diabetes? The best way to tell for sure is to have your veterinarian test your dog’s urine for the presence of glucose and/or ketones in conjunction with a blood test of his blood glucose levels. If you’re not sure whether or not to schedule that appointment, consider these four common signs your dog might be a diabetic.
1. Increased Urination/Excess Thirst
The most obvious sign of diabetes in dogs is increased urination brought on by excess thirst. In diabetic dogs, glucose builds up in the blood and can’t be efficiently excreted by the kidneys. The glucose then comes out in your dog’s urine which pulls fluids away from his tissues, ultimately making him dehydrated.
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2. Weight Loss
If your dog is eating normally (or even more than usual) and still can’t seem to keep on weight, he may be suffering from diabetes. Because the disease makes it difficult for dogs to effectively process the food they consume, they often end up hungrier and thinner than before.
3. Cloudy Eyes
Incredibly, about three-fourths of dogs who are diagnosed with diabetes are also diagnosed with cataracts (cloudy eyes) within nine months. Cataracts are a serious issue and can result in blindness quickly if not treated correctly. There’s some evidence that suggests antioxidant supplements can help stave off cataracts in pre-diabetic dogs, so talk to your veterinarian if your dog is at-risk.
4. Chronic Infections
Dogs with diabetes are more likely to develop infections, particularly urinary tract infections and gum disease. In the urinary tract, diabetic dogs’ urine is diluted, thus more susceptible to bacterial growth. Gum disease affects a vast majority of dogs over three years old. A dental infection can make it more difficult for your dog to process insulin, exacerbating the other symptoms of his diabetes.
If you have any reason to suspect your dog might be developing diabetes, go ahead and call your vet. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to diagnosing such a potentially serious disease, and in a lot of cases diabetes can even be prevented with proper medical care and weight management.