Dogs with diabetes mellitus are unable to use carbohydrates/sugars normally. In a healthy dog, certain cells in the pancreas produce insulin to regulate sugar uptake into cells throughout the body. In some forms of diabetes, the cells do not produce insulin, while in other forms insulin is produced, but body tissues do not respond. Diabetes is found in Alaskan malamutes.
While diabetes is hereditary in some cases, genetics is only one of many causal factors. Severely affected dogs usually have apparent symptoms by six months of age - pups drink and eat excessive amounts, but develop very slowly. Increased urination and soft stools are seen.
In other dogs, diabetes mellitus does not develop until middle age. Higher levels of glucose in the blood and urine cause increased eating, drinking, and urination, with weight loss. This can lead to the development of cataracts, liver disease, and pancreatitis. Many diabetic dogs also are more susceptible to bacterial infections, particularly of the urinary tract. Untreated diabetic dogs will develop ketoacidosis, a state of insulin deficiency aggravated by ensuing hyperglycemia, dehydration, and acidosis-producing derangements in intermediary metabolism. Ketoacidosis is indicated by depression, weakness, vomiting, and irregular breathing patterns.
To diagnose the condition, a veterinarian will look for elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine. Ketones also may be present in the urine. A complete laboratory work-up also should be done to determine if any other condition may be causing or contributing to, or occurring as a result of, the diabetes mellitus. The standard treatment for diabetes mellitus is supplemental insulin, with a goal of normalizing blood glucose levels and minimizing variation in those levels. Diet changes and exercise usually are recommended. Emergency treatment for dogs with ketoacidois includes intravenous fluids and fast-acting insulin. Once the animal is stable, a regular regimen of longer-acting insulin, diet, and exercise can begin.
Developed from the Canine Inherited Disorders Database.