Diabetes is a disease that affects an estimated 1 in 300 dogs. Diabetes is chronic, and you will have to manage the condition throughout the dog’s life span.
With proper treatment and monitoring, dogs with this disease can live happily with minimal to no complications. But with some dogs, managing symptoms could be challenging.
If the disease is not diagnosed or in the case of lack of proper care, the health condition of your dog will worsen. Symptoms such as excessive weight loss, heart palpitations, vision loss, and lethargy will affect their quality of life.
You will then face the difficult question of when to put a diabetic dog down? The article will look at diabetes, its symptoms, treatment plans, and care routines, among others, to help you make an informed decision.
- When to Put a Diabetic Dog Down?
- What is Diabetes and Different Types that Can Affect Dogs?
- What Symptoms Do Diabetic Dogs Show?
- What Issues Can Lead to Diabetes in Dogs?
- What Treatment Options are Available?
- How to Care for Dogs with Diabetes?
- Which Dog Breeds Are Predisposed to Diabetes?
- How Long Do Dogs with Diabetes Live?
- Can Diabetes be Prevented in Dogs?
When to Put a Diabetic Dog Down?
Euthanization is understandably an overwhelming decision to make. Whether you bring home a puppy or adopt an adult dog from the shelter, they become a part of your family. And letting go of a loved one is never easy.
You need to consider the dog’s quality of life when mulling over the question of when to put them down. The advanced stage of diabetes could lead to several health complications.
Hypoglycemia is when your dog’s body has low blood sugar levels. You might notice symptoms such as loss of coordination, trembling, disorientation, and fatigue. Low blood sugar levels can also lead to brain damage. Poor or loss of vision is another common complication of diabetes.
Ketoacidosis is a severe complication of final-stage diabetes. Your dog’s body will start breaking down fat stores for fuel in this condition, as it cannot access glucose. But the liver processes these fats into ketones, which is poisonous for the body. As a result, your dog will suffer various physical and neurological changes.
When your dog cannot perform simple tasks like eating, walking, peeing, or pooping on its own, it is time to consider euthanization. Talk to your vet; with their experience, they will be able to guide you through the process better.
If you feel guilty about letting go of your pet: seek help. Talk to family members and friends. You can join a support group. Consult with other pet owners. Holding on to your pet in pain and suffering and not ready to say goodbye, is cruel.
If the dog is in the final stage of diabetes, with severe symptoms like tremors, seizures, breathing difficulties, their body is already giving up. As their human parent, putting them down is difficult, but the correct decision can be in their favor.
What is Diabetes and Different Types that Can Affect Dogs?
Glucose and insulin are two important keywords to understand regarding diabetes.
When your dog consumes food, the nutrients in the food are converted to energy to keep the bodily functions going. Glucose is one of the byproducts of the nutrient breakdown process. It is a type of sugar that is fuel for various cells and organs. The blood absorbs the glucose and transports it through the body.
Your dog’s pancreas produces a hormone called insulin. The hormone is responsible for regulating the level of glucose in the blood. It informs the cells to pick the glucose absorbed in the blood.
Diabetes mellitus is a disease that occurs when the glucose and insulin connection breaks. There are two types of diabetes:
- Type 1: This is the most prevalent type of diabetes in pets. If your dog’s pancreas is not working as expected, they do not produce enough insulin for the body. This type is also referred to as insulin-deficiency diabetes.
- Type 2: In this type, the pancreas produces insulin, but the other hormones in your dog’s body prevent insulin from being used as intended. They are also known as insulin-resistance diabetes.
Regardless of the type, diabetes leads to high sugar levels in the blood, while the cells and organs that need this sugar for energy cannot access them.
What Symptoms Do Diabetic Dogs Show?
Detecting diabetes in the early stage improves the chances of your dog having a good quality of life and living till their expected life span. Hence, it becomes necessary to monitor your pet, and visit the vet if you see any of the symptoms mentioned below.
Some early signs of diabetes in dogs are:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased appetite
- Loss of weight
Yes, dogs can lose weight even when eating more than usual. This is because their body is not efficiently converting nutrients from the food.
If undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes will proceed to an advanced state. Symptoms of advanced diabetes are:
- Loss of appetite
- Recurring infections
- Cloudy eyes
When diabetes approaches its final stage, it can affect your dog’s body in several negative ways. Some of these complications could be life-threatening. Symptoms of final stage diabetes are:
- Tremors and seizures
- Kidney failure
- Cataracts that can lead to blindness
- Liver damage
When you are faced with when to put a diabetic dog down, take their symptoms and quality of life into consideration.
What Issues Can Lead to Diabetes in Dogs?
Various risk factors that can lead to diabetes in dogs are:
- Age: Diabetes can occur at any stage. But, it is commonly diagnosed in dogs between the ages of 7 to 10 years.
- Gender: Female dogs, especially the unspayed, are at twice the risk of developing diabetes compared to their male counterparts.
- Obesity: Obese dogs experience higher levels of fatty acids and inflammation. It can damage the pancreas and obstruct it from functioning correctly. This leads to insulin resistance.
- Genes: Diabetes can occur in any dog, but some breeds are at higher risks of developing the condition. For example, Cocker Spaniels, Pomeranians, and Labrador Retrievers, among others.
- Other Health Issues: As the dog starts to age, it might develop different health conditions that can lead to diabetes or reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. For example, heart disease, kidney disease, hyperadrenocorticism, and pancreatitis, among others.
What Treatment Options are Available?
The vet will conduct blood tests to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes. Once confirmed, the vet will decide the treatment plan according to the type, stage of diabetes, and your pet’s condition.
The usual treatment plans for canine diabetes are:
1. Insulin Injections
In the case of insulin-deficiency diabetes, your dog will need insulin shots twice a day. The vet will prescribe the initial dose and type of insulin. Then, the dosage will be adjusted according to the body’s reaction to the treatment.
Your dog cannot consume insulin orally; it has to be taken in the form of injections. The needle is small, and the process is not so painful. Your pet can tolerate injections very well.
The vet will demonstrate the process of giving the shot under the skin. Pay close attention and ask questions, if any, because you will have to administer these injections daily.
The vet will recommend a diet depending on your dog’s age, weight, and activity level. Ensure you stick to the given calorie range.
Fiber helps to slow down the process. It makes your dog feel fuller for a longer time. Thus, vets usually recommend a high-fiber, low-fat diet. The fewer calories in low-fat food help with weight loss.
Give the dog enough water, or it could lead to digestive issues like constipation.
Regular exercise is essential to keep your dog active, help lose weight and keep the blood sugar level in check. But, more than the intensity, consistency matters with exercise. For example, if you take your dog out on a walk in the evening, ensure you follow the routine every day.
Suddenly changing the routine, taking them for a swim or hike may not be the best idea.
How to Care for Dogs with Diabetes?
At first, it will be understandably hard to care for a dog with diabetes. You will have to learn how to give them injections. Make time for their exercise and stay away from the temptation of giving them frequent treats.
With time though, the process will get easier. If you catch diabetes early and bring down the pet’s weight, they will have increased chances of living a normal life.
Staying consistent with the treatment is vital. For example, your dog’s body might cope if you mistakenly forget their insulin shot once. But this is not ideal. Set timers on your phone and ensure you do not miss any shots.
You should also monitor their diet and exercise, and there should not be a lot of variations in these two aspects. Please do not feed them table scraps. Do not let your dog turn into a couch potato.
Work with the vet to find the proper insulin dosage for your pet. This process can be time-consuming and expensive. You will have to be patient. The vet might frequently adjust the insulin, diet, and exercise required depending on how the dog responds to the treatment.
Which Dog Breeds Are Predisposed to Diabetes?
As mentioned above, any dog can develop diabetes. But some dog breeds are predisposed to diabetes, they are:
- Tibetan Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Fox Terrier
- Siberian Husky
- Bichon Frise
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Beagles among others
Being predisposed does not mean they are sure to develop diabetes; it means they are at a higher risk. If you see any early signs of diabetes, it is best to get their bloodwork checked by a vet.
How Long Do Dogs with Diabetes Live?
Timing is of importance when it comes to a diabetes diagnosis. If the disease is diagnosed in a young to a middle-aged dog, they can comfortably live up to their expected lifespan with proper treatment and care. However, if diabetes has resulted from other health issues in older dogs, treatment may not be as effective.
In the absence of treatment, the disease can progress quickly. Additionally, it could lead to complications like hypoglycemia and ketoacidosis. This could further lead to poor quality of life and multiple organ failures.
The first three months after the diagnosis are crucial. If they make it past these months, they can continue living as normal with minimal to no symptoms. However, to become a reality, you need to be consistent with the treatment plan and be vigilant of any new symptoms.
When diagnosed, do not panic and start thinking about questions like when to put a diabetic dog down. There are treatments available that will let you enjoy many more years with your pet.
Can Diabetes be Prevented in Dogs?
Diabetes could result from age, genetics, and other health complications. You do not have any control over the causes; thus, there is no point worrying about them. However, you can do your best for the dog by giving them a balanced diet, ensuring they exercise regularly, and keeping an eye out for any physical and neurological symptoms.
Keep the dog’s weight in check by feeding them healthy food items. Do not feed them fatty and greasy human food. It can put unnecessary pressure on their pancreas.
Make exercising fun by switching up activities. For example, walking, running, swimming, playing fetch, and hiking can help your pet remain active.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that can affect any dog. Early diagnosis is the key. Once diagnosed, treatment options are available that can help your dog live normally.
If the symptoms are less obvious and diabetes goes undetected, it could lead to several serious health complications. Some of these complications could be life-threatening.
Suppose you are wondering when to put a diabetic dog down; the answer depends on the quality of their life. First, consult with the vet to understand if there is anything more than you can do to care for your dog. If diabetes has reached its final stage and your dog is in pain and suffering, it would be best to let them go.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.