Diabetes mellitus, or “sugar diabetes,” is the most common type of diabetes seen in dogs. It is a metabolism disorder. metabolism refers to how the body converts food into energy.
canine diabetes is a disease that can be controlled if detected and treated early.
the need for daily insulin injections and special diets not only time consuming but also leaves a lot of room for error. To make matters worse, diabetes is a condition that will generally worsen over time and the need to monitor changing clinical symptoms is paramount in case insulin doses need to be adjusted.
you can read our page on canine diabetes. In this post, we are going to dive deeper into the final stages of dog diabetes.
Here are a few things to consider if you find your dog in the end stages of canine diabetes.
To understand what diabetes is, it helps to understand some of this process.
What is diabetes?
With diabetes, the glucose-insulin connection doesn’t work the way it should. Diabetes occurs in dogs in two ways:
- insulin deficiency diabetes: is when the dog’s body does not produce enough insulin. this happens when the pancreas is damaged or not working properly. dogs with this type of diabetes need daily injections to replace the insulin they lack. This is the most common type of diabetes in dogs.
- insulin-resistant diabetes: is when the pancreas produces some insulin, but the dog’s body does not use it as it should. the cells are not responding to the “message” of insulin, so glucose is not moved from the blood into the cells. this type of diabetes can occur especially in older and obese dogs.
bitches can also develop temporary insulin resistance during heat or pregnancy.
Average lifespan of a dog with diabetes
many dogs showing symptoms of diabetes and are diagnosed with it, they don’t actually die of diabetes if they get the right treatment. In fact, if your dog lives beyond the first 3-4 months of diagnosis and isn’t left untreated, you and your furry friend can still spend a lot of time together.
The median survival of dogs with diabetes is two years, and there are many who live much longer than that, provided they receive proper treatment and are regularly evaluated by the veterinarian.
Therefore, dogs with diabetes generally live full and happy lives, free of symptoms when properly treated.
However, without insulin treatment or therapy, dogs with diabetes mellitus are at high risk of developing complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis, which can cause multi-organ failure.
many dogs that die from diabetes often do so because they were diagnosed late and/or before the disease could be controlled.
What is diabetic ketoacidosis in dogs?
diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is essentially a life-threatening complication of diabetes mellitus.
dka occurs when there is not enough insulin in the body to regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels.
In this condition, glucose levels build up in the bloodstream and the dog’s liver produces ketone bodies to act as a fuel source as insulin levels drop. your dog’s body will become more acidic when ketones break down.
This causes disruption of the normal electrolyte balance, adding to the harmful acidic environment.
Signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis in dogs
Diabetic ketoacidosis can occur rapidly and its symptoms may be seen within a month or two of developing diabetes. Warning signs of diabetic ketoacidosis in dogs include:
- excessive thirst
- frequent urination
- nausea and vomiting
- abdominal pain
- rapid breathing with rapid heavy panting
- fruity-smelling breath
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, it is important to schedule a visit with your veterinarian immediately.
Signs that your dog with diabetes is dying
To make the decision easier, consider whether advanced diabetes has also caused your dog to suffer from other health problems such as:
- urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- kidney failure
It’s also good to consider that treatment for diabetes can be quite intense. As older dogs are already weaker and more fragile, keeping them alive may only prolong their suffering. however, the decision is ultimately yours.
Signs that your dog is in the final stages of diabetes
The following are signs that your dog has an advanced condition or is in the final stages of diabetes:
excessive thirst and urination
weakness and/or lethargy
increased respiratory rate
sweet smelling breath
sudden decrease in vision
Owners will need to pay special attention to the appearance of any of these symptoms, some of which can be quantified by measuring the amount of water your dog drinks or the number of breaths he takes per minute; others are a bit more difficult to follow. A dog with ketoacidosis will go downhill very quickly, and it will often be obvious when they have entered the final stages of diabetes: they may be vomiting, depressed, lethargic, and not being themselves at all.
the goal is to detect subtle changes before the disease progresses to cad. The earlier treatment is started, the better the prognosis. It’s a good habit to measure how much water your dog is drinking, as this can provide vital information for your vet. record this every day and you can even plot the results on a graph. If the trend is gradually rising, your dog’s diabetes may not be sufficiently controlled.
It’s also very important to take your dog to the vet for regular checkups and blood tests. Your veterinarian can perform a blood glucose curve that measures how your dog’s blood glucose levels change throughout the day. this allows them to ensure that your dog has the correct dose of insulin. They can also test for a blood marker known as fructosamine, which tells the vet how high blood glucose levels have been over longer periods of time.
What causes diabetic ketoacidosis?
As mentioned above, the main cause of diabetic ketoacidosis is insulin resistance, that is, the body’s inability to respond to insulin and therefore the inability to use glucose. but what causes this insulin resistance?
Basically, any other disease or concurrent disease can lead to insulin resistance through the release of stress hormone and inflammatory mediators. therefore, it is important to rule out these other conditions in a dog that is no longer responding to its insulin medication. older dogs or female dogs that are not spayed are also more likely to become resistant to insulin.
Some of the main causes of insulin resistance include: urinary tract infections, skin infections, respiratory infections, long-term steroid use, post-surgery, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease, pancreatitis, and cancer.
The treatment of CAD requires hospitalization and intensive care, including fluid therapy and intravenous insulin.
If your dog’s diabetes is no longer controllable and you’ve noticed a definite change in his behavior or he’s showing any of the symptoms listed above, he’s probably dying of diabetes. A dog that is depressed and lethargic all day is not a happy dog, especially if he is vomiting and losing weight.
Dogs whose diabetes is not adequately controlled may slowly deteriorate or may suddenly go into dka. take your dog to your local vet if you think this is the case; treatment may be possible.
It can be difficult as an owner to know when is the right time to put your dog to sleep; emotions run high and you want to do what’s best for your dog so he doesn’t suffer.
There is never a “right” time to put an animal to sleep, most diseases progress slowly and therefore the decision is often not so clear cut. however, in the case of diabetes, the decision may be left too late. a dog can go very suddenly into diabetic ketoacidosis and become very ill. Depending on the severity of the disease, the prognosis at this point can be poor and some owners will choose to put their dog to sleep before the distress worsens.
Many older dogs with diabetes will slowly deteriorate and their quality of life may gradually decline as the disease becomes less controlled. If your dog has chronic vomiting, dramatic weight loss, extreme lethargy, and a lack of interest in activities she once enjoyed, then it may be time to consider euthanasia. There comes a point where owners can keep their dog alive for their own good rather than what is best for their dog. If you’re not sure what to do, schedule a visit to your local vet who can help you come to a rational conclusion.
If your pet is diagnosed with diabetes, don’t panic. With good veterinary support, you should be able to provide proper care for your pet and ensure you both have many more happy years together.