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While it might seem surprising, our canine friends are susceptible to most health problems that we as people do. Diabetes in dogs (canine diabetes) is a good example of this and for the most part it is very similar to that in humans, even when it comes to effects.

According to Dr. Allison O’Kell, DVM, MS, DACVIM, canine diabetes is amongst the most common endocrine illnesses in dogs. In fact, it is predicted that anywhere from 1 in 100 to 1-500 dogs will develop diabetes in their lifetime. But what is canine diabetes anyway?

What is Canine Diabetes

Scientifically known as diabetes mellitus, canine diabetes is a disease that results from the failure of the pancreas to generate adequate insulin to control blood sugar. So, when your canine friend eats, the food is broken down into its constituents, including glucose (sugars), fats, and protein. The pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that helps the doggie’s body to process the glucose.

Types of Canine Diabetes

On the one hand, the pancreas may sometimes stop producing the insulin which is called Type I diabetes. On the other hand, the dog’s body cells might fail to respond to insulin, which is referred to as Type II diabetes. These two types of diabetes are extremely severe and eventually manifest in the body’s inability to process glucose correctly.

Type I diabetes: It is the most common type in our canine buddies. While the exact cause of this disease remains a mystery, it is believed to ensue when an autoimmune malady strikes the insulin, thus producing cells in the pancreas. It has, however, shown a resilient hereditary link.

Type II diabetes: This type of diabetes is mainly linked to some factors such as obesity. The body essentially generates too much insulin that the cells become insensitive to the hormone.

If left untreated, diabetes can result in extremely serious problems such as impaired vision or even life threatening. There is no cure for diabetes.

Symptoms of Canine Diabetes

Some of the most common symptoms of diabetes in canines include:

  • Excessive water drinking
  • Excessive urination
  • Sudden or rapid weight loss
  • A greedy appetite

Seizures, recurring infections, cataracts, poor coat quality, and weakness are also some of the less obvious symptoms of diabetes.

How long do older dogs live with diabetes?

Other people will ask: what is the life expectancy of a dog with diabetes? While diabetes can strike at any age, middle-aged to old dogs are mostly susceptible to it. Unsterilized female dogs are twice as male pooches to have canine diabetes.

If your canine friend is diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, do not freak out! After all, it is not an indication that they will die tomorrow or next month. There are many factors that come into play on how long your dog will live with diabetes, such as the age.

How willing you are to give daily insulin injections and how they will respond to the insulin are critical factors though. If a dog lives past three months after being diagnosed with diabetes, they do very well. With the dogs that do not make it in the mentioned phase being unaccounted for, old dogs can utmost live up to two years.

Diabetes Complications

As we mentioned earlier, diabetes is a severe condition. As such, you must adhere to your vet’s counsel if you wish to keep your canine friend a lengthier, healthy life. Some diabetes complications include:

  • Urinary tract infections – Diabetic dog’s urine contains high-level sugars and some canines have complications emptying their bladders fully. This results in urinary tract infections.
  • Cataracts – Over time, diabetic canines develop cataracts which may lead to either partial or complete blindness. The good thing is that your pooches’ eyesight can be restored via surgery.
  • Insulin Overdose – Pumping too much insulin into your canine friend can increase blood sugar levels leading to seizures and perpetual brain damage.
  • Diabetic retinopathy – It is a condition that occurs when a doggie’s diabetes activates changes in the blood vessel that offer blood flow to the eyes. Treatment is sometimes possible.

Other complications such as high blood pressure, low blood calcium levels, and rear-leg weakness can also occur, especially if not well managed.

In canine diabetes final stages, more stern problems such as ketoacidosis can strike. This is a state in which the body begins using reserve energy stores and can lead to other problems such as heart failure or brain swelling.

How long do dogs live with diabetes when untreated?

If a dog survives the first 60 days after diabetes diagnosis, you can take them home and they will be successfully treated. A dog that receives diabetes treatment can live as long as other non-diabetic dogs of a similar gender and age.

Can dogs live with diabetes without insulin?

Yes, they can. The only problem with this is that your canine pal will develop life-threatening conditions like ketoacidosis that can lead to multi-organ failure. This can even happen within 1 or 2 months after having diabetes.

How it is treated

Diabetes is treated using insulin, in order to restore the deficiency caused by insufficient functional pancreatic beta cells. 

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