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Managing Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus in Your Dog

Reviewed by Dr. Robert M. DuFort, DVM, DACVIM on Thursday, September 24, 2015
Posted October 02, 2015 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is an endocrine problem where the pancreas fails to produce enough of the hormone, insulin. Unfortunately, this disease is becoming a more prevalent problem in dogs, likely due to the growing rate of obesity in pets.

Pug looking into the cameraClinical signs of diabetes mellitus in pets include:

So, what exactly is happening to your dog’s body with DM? With DM, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, which is the hormone that helps push sugar (“glucose”) into the body’s cells. Without the insulin, the body’s cells are starving for sugar; unfortunately, this then stimulates the body to produce more and more sugar (in an attempt to feed the cells). That’s why your pet’s blood sugar is so high (what we call a “hyperglycemia”). Without insulin, the sugar can’t get into the cells; hence, why you need to give it through a tiny syringe twice a day.

Types of diabetes mellitus
In veterinary medicine, there are two types of diabetes mellitus seen: Type I DM and Type II DM.

  • Type I DM (which is seen more commonly in dogs) is when the body fails to produce insulin. Type I DM requires life-long insulin therapy.
  • Type II DM (which is seen more commonly in cats) occurs when the body produces small amounts of insulin, but insufficient amounts. Type II DM is often related to obesity, which causes the body to be insulin-resistant. With aggressive treatment for Type II DM, diabetes can be transient and may only require a diet change and short-term insulin therapy (e.g., months). Hence, one of the reasons why veterinarians are always fighting against pet obesity!

Treatment of diabetes mellitus
While the diagnosis of DM isn’t a death sentence, it can be a costly disease as it requires treatment. With appropriate therapy (including insulin injections, diet changes) and veterinary care, your dog can be successfully treated for this. That said, keep in mind that DM can be fatal if not treated, and that the hormone supplement (insulin) and follow-up care can be expensive.

Treatment for diabetes will depend on how early the DM was diagnosed, and what type of DM (e.g., Type I or Type II) your pet has. Dogs almost always develop Type I DM, and type 1 DM treatment will definitely require you giving injections of insulin twice a day. This will also require frequent blood tests at your veterinarian (e.g., blood glucose curves).

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.