Canine Diabetes is an endocrine disorder that requires extensive owner education and daily commitment to meticulous care to ensure a successful long-term outcome for diabetic dogs.
Surprisingly, the #1 cause of death in dogs with diabetes is not the disease–but rather, selective euthanasia by pet owners who have become so frustrated and discouraged with the management of their dog’s condition they feel the best option is to end their companions’ life.
That might sound savage and lacking in compassion for our beloved pets, but coping with the demands of caring for a dog with diabetes can become so overwhelming that ‘putting the dog out of it’s misery’ can seem like the most merciful alternative for some dog owners. These pet parents are hurting and in desperate need of a better method to nurture and care for their dogs’ special diabetic needs.
Fortunately, new scientific research has uncovered a natural, plant-based therapy that not only reduces the incidence of diabetes but can alter the functional outcome to prevent the disease in our furry friends.
A component of the Cannabis Sativa plant–Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown capable of suppressing inflammation and reducing oxidative damage to cells involved in the production & utilization of insulin.
Diabetes in Dogs
Diabetes affects approximately 1 in 300 dogs and due to the presence of numerous negative lifestyle factors, the prevalence of canine diabetes has been on the rise for nearly a decade. Since 2011, diabetes diagnoses in canines has increased by 32 percent (even though diabetes diagnoses in animals are greatly under-reported).
Diabetes in dogs occurs more frequently in middle-aged or senior animals (especially females) but can affect dogs of any age after they’ve encountered enough lifestyle obstacles to induce either a decreased production of insulin or a diminished ability to use it effectively.
In either case, once a dog has the disease, it can become extremely difficult and expensive to manage–so it’s important to help provide a healthy lifestyle to prevent diabetes in your companion animal.
Canine Diabetes Mellitus
When your dog eats, his pancreas automatically produces a required amount of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas’ Islet cells and allows the body to take in glucose for energy. With diabetes, the pancreas produces insufficient amounts of insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to it’s presence. The most common cause of diabetes is damage or destruction of these cells–although there is no definite reason as to why this happens.
Canine Diabetes Mellitus is a disease in which the beta cells of the endocrine pancreas either stop producing insulin or can no longer produce it in enough quantity for the dog’s needs–preventing the normal conversion of food into energy. But unlike humans, dogs are not diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes.
Diabetes can cause a multitude of canine disorders, including depression, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, heart disease and can even require amputation of extremities due to improper circulation.
It has been shown that dogs with previous cases of pancreatitis, those who are severely overweight, and those treated long-term with corticosteroids are more predisposed to developing diabetes, but any dog can be affected.
There also seems to be some breed predisposition. Smaller dogs including Miniature Poodles, Dachshunds, Schnauzers, and Cairn Terriers, and some larger breeds such as Chow Chows, Keeshonds, and Samoyeds may be at higher risk. Ultimately there is insufficient insulin production which can result in hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, and leads to a life-long disease.
Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs
The symptoms of diabetes in dogs can develop very gradually over time so knowing the signs of canine diabetes is essential in protecting your dog’s long-term health. The word “diabetes” is from the Greek word meaning “a siphon” because dogs with diabetes passed water ‘like-a-siphon’.
It is often said that animals with untreated diabetes will have “sweet urine” or urine that smells sweet. When there is not enough insulin for the uptake of glucose (the main sugar the body uses for energy), the excess glucose winds up in urine and is excreted. This also causes the body to dilute the now concentrated urine, meaning that your dog will need to urinate relatively frequently and, in turn, drink excessive amounts of water.
Understanding diabetic symptoms of your dog is critical – especially since diabetes left untreated can be fatal. In general, consult your veterinarian about the possibility of diabetes if your dog shows any of the following symptoms:
- Drinks more water than usual (polydipsia),
- Urinates more frequently, produces more urine per day, or has “accidents” in the house (polyuria),
- Always acts hungry (polyphagia) but maintains or loses weight,
- Has cloudy eyes.
You may hear your vet refer to the two most common clinical signs of diabetes as “PU/PD” (polyuria/polydipsia), meaning excessive urination and drinking. The clinical manifestations of these problems are variable; some dogs experience unpredictable fluctuations in their blood glucose concentrations (i.e. poor regulation), while others require excessive amounts of insulin (i.e. insulin resistance).
Signs Your Dog Is Diabetic
1. Increased urination — The first thing that often happens is blood sugar levels become so high outside the cells of your pet’s body that it spills into the urine, increasing urine production. You might notice your dog is urinating more frequently or is having frequent accidents in the house.
2. Increased Thirst — Increased urination causes an increase in thirst, so you might also notice your dog emptying his water dish more often. Increased thirst and urination are hallmarks of a diabetic condition, so those are things you’ll want to watch closely for, especially as your pet ages.
Unfortunately, increased thirst and urine output are also signs of other serious health problems, so regardless of the age or condition of your dog or cat, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice these symptoms.
3. Increased Appetite — Another symptom you might notice is increased appetite. Your pet will be hungrier because the amino acids needed inside the cells aren’t getting there, or aren’t being used appropriately.
4. Weight loss — When the cells of your pet’s body are being starved of essential nutrients, the result is often an increase in appetite. But because the cells aren’t using energy from food efficiently, your pet can lose weight even though he’s taking in more calories.
5. Tiredness / Lack of Energy — Other symptoms you might notice in your dog are lethargy and lack of energy. When the cells of your pet’s body are deprived of blood sugar, he will often exhibit a general lack of desire to run, take a walk with you or play.
6. Vision problems — Another symptom of diabetes in companion animals is blindness, blurry eyes or loss of eyesight as a result of diabetic cataracts.
7. Urinary Tract Infections — It’s not at all uncommon for diabetic dogs to acquire secondary urinary tract infections. This happens because the more sugar there is in the urine, the greater the likelihood that bacteria will grow in your pet’s bladder.
8. Kidney Failure — Kidney disease is also a common secondary symptom of diabetes. Often the first diagnosis for a diabetic dog is chronic renal insufficiency or acute kidney problems. The sugar that is meant to be retained in your pet’s bloodstream but spills over into the urine is very damaging to the kidneys.
Dogs and Diabetes Treatment
Just as important as knowing the symptoms of diabetes in your dog is understanding how to care for a diabetic pet at home. The treatment plan should include checking your dog’s blood sugar on a regular basis with at-home monitoring meters specifically calibrated for pets. The addition of CBD-rich Hemp oil to your dogs daily supplement schedule can potentially help control fluctuations in blood sugar levels as well as aid in the utilization of insulin by cells.
Caring for a dog with diabetes can be tragically overwhelming for some pet parents–over half of dog owners report being fearful of giving injections at the beginning of insulin therapy; yet only a small percentage remained hesitant of delivering needle injections after seeing their dogs were calm and accepting of the care.
At the beginning of treatment, your dog will be started on a base dose of insulin and monitored routinely to determine the appropriate dose specific for your dog. Unfortunately there is no common or standard dose of insulin so canine diabetic patients need to be assessed and managed on an individual basis.
In addition, your vet may prescribe a special diet for your pet. A high-fiber diet with complex carbohydrates may be recommended to help stabilize blood glucose levels and allow your dog’s body to get the energy and nutrients it needs. It is important to keep to this diet and avoid extras like certain treats or table scraps.
Caring For A Diabetic Dog
Caring for a dog with diabetes can be a roller coaster ride for pet owners. Along with the strict adherence to to a daily injection schedule & monitoring glucose levels (especially while traveling) there’s the added financial burden of scheduled visits to the vet and dietary & lifestyle changes that, in total, can deter proper patient care and compliance.
To reduce the stress on dog owners and set them on a smoother path forward, your veterinarian should take the necessary time to fully demonstrate how to give your dog a subcutaneous, or under-the-skin, injection and make sure you are comfortable taking glucose meter readings on your own.
Unfortunately, in the early stages following diabetes diagnosis, dog owners tend to break the regimented dietary rules set by their medical professional because they feel that the occasional snack or shared sandwich will not cause problems. It is important to remember that a couple of cookies or a piece of buttered toast can provide 20% of the daily caloric needs for a small canine patient and can certainly impact blood-glucose regulation.
We tend to think of insulin as working like a key in a lock to open up glucose transport into cells, but its action is far more complex than that. Insulin profoundly impacts energy storage in fat and muscle, as well as lowering blood glucose concentrations. Therefore, the type of insulin and dose recommended should be determined by your veterinarian based on your dog’s individual metabolic criteria.
Once you and veterinarian have determined that your dog’s diabetes is being managed appropriately (remember, it’s a team effort), your dog should have a check-up every 4 to 6 months. Routine blood work and urine testing will generally be recommended at these visits to monitor your dog’s overall health.
Also, every member of the household needs to be “on-board” with the feeding plan and understands the importance of a consistent diet. A dog with diabetes should be fed on a regular schedule, accompanied by daily moderate exercise to maintain normal blood sugar.
Normal Blood Sugar for Dogs
Canine Diabetes Mellitus is diagnosed by your veterinarian using a simple test to measure the amount of glucose in the dog’s blood and/or urine. Normal blood glucose levels for dogs can range from 75-120 mg/dl. If a dog has diabetes, their blood glucose levels will be significantly increased.
Because the diabetic dog is not producing enough of it’s own insulin, a replacement form of insulin will need to be administered daily at-home followed by regular blood sugar monitoring using using devices specifically calibrated for pets. Unfortunately, without proper monitoring, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a more serious metabolic condition.
A more serious form or complication of uncontrolled diabetes in dogs is a condition termed Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). In these cases, there are other changes in the blood and urine that point to this serious, potentially lethal, metabolic disorder.
Ketoacidiosis in Dogs
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a severe form of complicated diabetes mellitus (DM) which requires emergency care. Dogs with the more serious metabolic DKA disorder may require intensive in-patient treatment in the hospital environment to stabilize the pet prior to discharging them for home care.
In Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), glucose is not effectively entering into the cells, so instead, ketones are synthesized from fatty acids as a substitute form of energy. Excess keto-acids results in acidosis and severe electrolyte abnormalities–which can be a life threatening situation for your canine companion.
Each DKA case is different–there is no way to put a specific time on how long it can take to regulate a dog’s supplemental insulin. Sometimes the regulation process will require you to try different dosages, multiple diets (and combination diets), as well as varying the daily injections.
Periodic monitoring of blood glucose levels (blood glucose curves) will be required to fine tune the dosage and frequency of insulin administration for the dog patient with DKA. Insulin regulation can be achieved sometimes within a month, and in some occasions, over a year from the time therapy first started. It is very important to work closely with your veterinarian during this process to avoid further complications.
Even after your dog’s insulin is regulated, you will still need to maintain a close relationship with your veterinarian to ensure a consistency of care with frequent check-ups to maintain your dog’s health.
CBD Oil For Dogs
Contemporary Care For Canine Diabetes
While direct research into Cannabidiol for canine metabolic disorders is limited, there are some important take-away’s from the available scientific literature. Cannabidiol (CBD) — the major nonpsychoactive constituent of the Cannabis Sativa plant — is currently undergoing a lot of scientific research which already suggests that it has a good safety profile with no addictive side effects.
Because of its neuro-protective and immunomodulatory properties, CBD exhibits powerful wide spectrum therapeutic potential in diabetes treatment compared to currently available veterinary medical treatments.
Evidence suggests that CBD acts through endocannabinoid receptors in the body. Scientists have discovered that the cells in canine brains, nervous system, liver, kidneys and lungs all have cannabinoid receptors called CB1.
Furthermore, blood cells and the immune system have additional receptors called CB2. These CB2 receptors are activated naturally by endocannabinoids–of which CBD is a primary one.
Cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors have been previously detected in pancreatic β cells, where they attenuate insulin receptor action. Results from other studies suggest that CBD therapy inhibits diabetes by induction of regulatory TH2 (cell) responses (Weiss, et al., 2006).
The exciting news is that over 100 cannabinoid compounds in cannabis activate the CB receptors, in a not so surprisingly therapeutic way.
Final Stages of Dog Diabetes
The prognosis for a dog diagnosed with a diabetes can be a very positive one. As the pet guardian, your role in your dog’s treatment is critical. It may seem overwhelming at first, but with time and regular practice you will develop a routine that will become second nature–in this case, practice makes perfect.
The extra time and effort you put in now will be justly rewarded. Learning to give the correct amount of insulin, at the right times of day, along with strict diet regimens can help avoid dangerous fluctuations in your dog’s blood sugar levels and potentially prevent progression into more serious metabolic conditions like DKA.
Remember – Canine Diabetes is usually a life-long disease. But by recognizing the early warning signs, learning to control your dog’s blood glucose levels with consistent administration of insulin & adding natural CBD to your dogs daily routine, even a dog with diabetes can lead a happy, normal life.