Diabetes beim Hund: Ursachen, Symptome und Therapie

Diabetes in dogs: causes, symptoms and therapy

Dr. Karin Schlotterbeck

Diabetes mellitus, also known as diabetes, is one of the most common metabolic disorders in dogs. With diabetes mellitus, the body can no longer properly regulate its sugar balance, the so-called carbohydrate metabolism. After eating food and the associated increase in blood sugar levels, insulin, a protein produced by the pancreas, normally ensures that the excess blood sugar gets into the cells and is available there as an energy source. If the body does not produce enough insulin or cannot use it effectively, the blood sugar level in the blood rises and is no longer available as an energy source in the cells.  

Causes of diabetes in dogs  

Type 1 diabetes (absolute insulin deficiency), which occurs most frequently in dogs, is caused by the destruction of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, which can be caused, for example, by a viral infection (parvovirus) or by changes in the pancreas due to tumors and inflammation or cell loss from other causes can also be caused by hormones that work against insulin.  

Type 2 diabetes (relative insulin deficiency) is due to insulin resistance, in which the body does not respond appropriately to the insulin available. Older dogs between seven and nine years of age are particularly affected, more often female dogs and neutered male dogs, which usually weigh less than 22 kg. An increased occurrence is seen in terriers, dachshunds, spaniels, poodles, retrievers and Rottweilers.  

A special case is diabetes in a healthy female dog after heat due to an increased progesterone level, which leads to an antagonistic effect on insulin, which means that the pancreas has to produce insulin in higher quantities. In this case, immediate castration of the bitch is advisable because removing the ovaries removes the progesterone producer and usually provides sufficient insulin again.  

In order to compensate for the lack of energy that occurs in the cells with diabetes, there is an increased feeling of hunger and the breakdown of body substances. When blood sugar levels are significantly elevated, the sugar also passes into the urine and draws more water with it, which causes both increased urine production and increased thirst.  

What symptoms does a dog with diabetes show?  

  1. Excessive thirst (polydipsia) : The dog drinks an unusual amount of water.
  2. Frequent urination (polyuria) : Increased urination may occur.
  3. Weight loss despite increased appetite : The dog may lose weight despite eating more.
  4. Weakness and lethargy : The dog may show less interest in activities.
  5. Poor wound healing : Injuries may heal more slowly.

            Diabetes progression in dogs  

            Untreated diabetes in dogs can lead to serious complications. Chronic elevated blood sugar levels can damage various organs and tissues, leading to problems such as cataracts (clouding of the lens, also called cataracts), kidney disease, poor circulation in the limbs, and infections. In the case of prolonged hyperglycemia, i.e. when there is too much sugar in the blood and too little in the cells, more fat is broken down to produce the necessary energy (lipolysis), which creates so-called ketone bodies, which subsequently lead to hyperacidification of the blood (metabolic Acidosis or diabetic ketoacidosis), requiring intensive veterinary treatment.  

            Diagnosis of diabetes in dogs  

            Diabetes mellitus can be clearly detected using the preliminary report and a blood and urine test.  

            Therapy of diabetes in dogs  

            1. Insulin therapy : Lifelong administration of insulin injections is the cornerstone of treatment. A cure is only possible in rare cases (e.g. heat-related diabetes in the initial phase). The veterinarian will determine the type of insulin and dosage based on the dog's individual needs. If the patient is well adjusted to insulin, he or she can lead a normal life. However, it initially takes up to six weeks until the dog is optimally adjusted. A regular vet visit and blood sugar checks are necessary. It is a great relief for the dog owner and also for the veterinarian to regularly measure the blood sugar level of their four-legged friend at home by collecting blood from the dog's ear with a lancing device and determining the blood sugar using the so-called glucometer.

            Complications: If too much insulin is accidentally injected, the symptoms are so-called hypoglycemia, low blood sugar levels, seizures, unsteady gait and general weakness. Quick action in the form of feeding or giving honey, sugar water or glucose can provide relief.  

            2. Diet management : A balanced diet with appropriate carbohydrates and balanced protein content is important. Feeding times and food consistency can also be adjusted.

            3. Regular exercise : A customized exercise program can help regulate blood sugar levels.  

            What is the prognosis for a dog with diabetes?  

            The prognosis depends on the severity of the disease and the owner's willingness to consistently carry out treatment. With appropriate insulin therapy, diet management, and regular veterinary checks, a dog with diabetes can live a relatively normal life. However, it requires commitment on the part of the owner to control the condition and avoid complications.  

            You should communicate regularly with your veterinarian so that he or she can monitor your dog's health as best as possible and always adapt the treatment.