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9 Signs Your Dog May Be Diabetic

It’s National Pet Diabetes Month, which means it’s a good time to learn more about the disease and how it affects dogs.

Dogs typically don’t develop Type II diabetes (which occurs when the body is unable to use insulin properly) until mid-to-late adulthood, but Type I, which occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, is common among some breeds.

Unfortunately, unlike Type II diabetes, Type I can’t be reversed through changes in diet and exercise, since the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas cannot be repaired once they are destroyed.

However, vet-prescribed exercise regimens and portion-controlled diet changes are beneficial to dogs with or without diabetes, and taking such steps can result in a better quality of life for your diabetic dog.

Although it may be frightening to learn that your dog has diabetes, early diagnosis can give you more options when it comes to treating the disease. Here are nine signs to look out for if you think your dog may be diabetic.

1. Sweet/Fruity Breath

Fruit-scented breath in dogs can be a symptom of ketoacidosis, which is associated with diabetes. When the body doesn’t have or use insulin properly, it has to turn to fats for energy. The waste created from the breakdown of fats in the place of glucose results in the buildup of ketones in the body. In excessive amounts, ketones can poison the blood and urine in a process called ketoacidosis. If your dog has oddly sweet-smelling breath or breath that smells like rotten fruit, he or she may need emergency care. Contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

2. Thinning Hair/Thin Skin

Diabetic dogs may exhibit alopecia (atypical hair loss in which patches of hair fall out without growing back as they would during shedding). The hair loss may be combined with skin that appears unusually thin. Chronic skin infections can follow, which are very dangerous and especially difficult for a diabetic dog to overcome. Thin skin and chronic skin infections are also associated with Cushing’s disease, so it’s important to visit your dog’s veterinarian when these symptoms develop for an accurate diagnosis and care plan.

3. Excess Weight

A dog's pudge may seem cute, but it can also be very dangerous. While extra weight is not necessarily a result of diabetes, it can make it harder for your dog’s body to cope with the disease. However, all dogs are different, and standard sizes can vary greatly from one dog to another. For this reason, it's important to bring your dog in for a checkup if you believe he may be gaining too much weight too rapidly.

4. Lethargy

Diabetic dogs display less energy than their usual selves. A dog may tire for no apparent reason, seeming less interested in physical activities that he normally enjoys. He will likely sleep more than normal, which is a red flag for potential health issues if the behavior persists. When insulin production declines, it essentially means the body is lacking the fuel it needs to function properly. As a result, a dog will become less energetic and weaker.

5. Cataracts

Cataracts are common in dogs diagnosed with diabetes. Cataracts form when the lens of the eye becomes thick and cloudy in appearance. Although cataracts may not pose a significant problem for dogs in early stages, as the thickness of the lens spreads it will further obscure the dog’s vision. If the condition of the eyes continues to worsen, the dog can become permanently blind.

6. Increase in Urination Frequency/Thirst

One of the earliest signs of diabetes is excessive thirst, and it’s difficult to notice initially because a diabetic dog’s desire for water will steadily ramp up over time. The increase of glucose in the bloodstream results in the kidneys being unable to extract the glucose from water and redistribute it throughout the body. When the body is unable to absorb water into the bloodstream, the water is expelled through urination. Increased thirst and urination tend to occur simultaneously in diabetic dogs.

7. Increase in Appetite

If your dog is eating more without putting on much weight, it could be an early sign of diabetes. Essentially, when symptoms of diabetes begin to manifest in a dog, the body fails to properly process nutrients, which leads to the body requiring a higher intake of nutrients, which the body is still unable to properly process.

8. Weight Loss

In more severe stages of the disease, dogs will become less interested in eating, and getting affected dogs to take in the food they need to function becomes difficult. This may be a sign that the dog’s body isn’t receiving enough insulin. If your dog is diabetic and losing weight, it’s time to see a vet.

9. Vomiting

Obviously, vomiting can be a sign of any number of potential illnesses, but vomiting combined with the above symptoms means it’s definitely time for a trip to the vet. If your dog is diabetic and vomiting, it may be a sign of ketoacidosis, which must be addressed immediately. The combination of fruity smelling breath and vomiting means that your dog is likely in an emergency situation that requires professional care as soon as possible.


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