Diabetes can be a confusing and devastating disease for dogs and their dog parents alike. While most cases of a dog with diabetes can be managed for many healthy years, there may come a time when you’re asking yourself if your diabetic puppy is having the best quality of life or if they’re actually dying. We will provide you expert veterinarian advice and show you the signs that your dog with diabetes is dying. Read on to find out what may happen to your dog as the diabetes disease progresses.
An Overview of Dogs with Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus is a disease that affects the pancreas, an organ in the abdomen that has two main responsibilities. The pancreas’s first role is to produce enzymes that aid in digestion. Its second role is the production of insulin to regulate blood sugar, glucose, by delivering it to tissues throughout the body. Without insulin, glucose can’t get into the cells of that body that need it for energy and those cells essentially starve.
A dog that has diabetes is the result of a malfunction in the production of insulin or in the body’s response to insulin. The result is higher than normal blood sugar levels, which can lead to increased drinking, urination, and weight loss. One of the most obvious signs that your dog may have diabetes is excessive water drinking and urination.
Diabetes in dogs is most commonly treated by giving injectable insulin and a controlled diet to help regulate blood sugar levels. Dogs with diabetes need to be treated on a strict schedule and, in most cases, for the rest of their life. It takes a lot of commitment from a dog parent to help their puppy through the ins and outs of diabetes. As the diabetes disease progresses, there are going to be signs that your dog is dying or may not be living a quality life.
What Are the Complications of Diabetes in Dogs That Can Lead to Death?
When treating your dog with diabetes, there are two main complications. Complications with diabetes in dogs can come from either no treatment or incorrect treatment of the disease. Let’s look at these both in detail.
- Complications with no treatment: If a dog with diabetes goes undiagnosed and blood glucose levels stay high, cells that look to glucose for energy will start relying on fat and protein to feed them. This will cause weight loss and loss of muscle mass in a dog.
- Ketoacidosis: Additionally, the breakdown of fat, in the place of glucose, causes the production of ketone bodies to be used as energy. If this happens every once in a while, it’s not that big deal. The problem comes when ketone bodies are being continuously produced for a long period of time that leads to a condition called ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis causes a shift in your dog’s acid-base balance, making them more acidic. This throws off their fluid and electrolyte levels and brings about changes in their heart rhythm and muscle function. If ketoacidosis isn’t corrected, a dog can die.
- Nervous tissue: Another issue with not treating diabetes is that the brain and central nervous system use strictly glucose as an energy source – it can’t covert other energy forms. Without the help of insulin, brain tissue and nerves can become severely damaged or basically starve. There will be several obvious signs that your dog with diabetes is dying, like impairment, forgetfulness, or lack of coordination.
- Cataracts: Cataracts in dogs with diabetes is a common occurrence. Cataracts cause cloudiness in a dog’s eye that makes it difficult to see, or if severe enough, leads to blindness. While cataracts themselves aren’t fatal, blindness may be a major reason that dogs with diabetes are euthanized since their quality of life decreases.
- Complications with treatment: Even if you have had your puppy correctly diagnosed with diabetes, the issues don’t stop there. In fact, many aspects of treatment can be hazardous for your dog. Usually, this deals with incorrect insulin dosages or not following a strict schedule.
- Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia refers to low blood sugar. At first, it may seem weird that this may be a complication of diabetes since we’ve just been talking about how diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar. However, hypoglycemia can be a common side effect of giving a dog with diabetes a high dose of insulin. If a puppy is given too much insulin at once, it can remove too much glucose from the bloodstream, leaving the brain and other tissues reliant on glucose without it. This, again, basically starves these tissues.
- Another common cause of hypoglycemia in dogs with diabetes is giving insulin without giving your dog food first. Dogs need to eat in order to put glucose into the bloodstream. If insulin is given prior to a proper meal, it can remove too much glucose from the blood, leaving those pivotal tissues without an energy source. Hypoglycemia in dogs with diabetes can cause a decreased appetite, weakness, seizures, unconsciousness, and death if it’s not treated.
- Improper Insulin Dosage: Other diabetic treatment errors include improper dosages of insulin, improper diets, and not sticking to a schedule. All of these can lead to blood sugar levels that swing wildly from high to low and cause damage to organs and tissues. That’s why regular blood sugar monitoring is advised for dogs with diabetes to make sure your puppy is getting the proper dose of insulin at the proper time to level out those blood sugar levels.
Signs That Your Dog With Diabetes is Dying
By now, you should understand how severe of a disease diabetes is for dogs. Even with proper treatment, dogs can eventually become unreactive to insulin and require higher and higher doses until it’s no longer effective.
Once this happens, dogs can waste away, losing so much weight that they’re malnourished. They may also suffer damage to the brain or nerves, and major organs may start to shut down. Not to mention, these dogs just won’t feel well and may choose not to eat or drink, making the problems worse.
With this in mind, signs to look for that a dog with diabetes is dying include:
- Loss of appetite
- Not drinking
- Weakness or lethargy
- Incoordination, stumbling, falling, or not wanting to get up
- Severe weight loss and loss of muscle
- Tremors or seizures
- Abnormal heart rate
- Irregular breathing or difficulty breathing
While dogs can live many years with proper insulin treatment, their quality of life may begin to decrease significantly. If you notice any of the above signs and your dog’s quality of life begins to deteriorate, we urge you to consult a veterinarian sooner rather than later.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do dogs live with diabetes?
If your dog was diagnosed early with diabetes and lives past the first three months, they generally live for at least a couple of years. In fact, the average lifespan of a dog with diabetes is two years. Many dogs who die from diabetes early on usually do so because the disease was left untreated. Once your dog becomes very sick from diabetes, it’s difficult for them to recover because there are usually complications from issues or treatments.
Can dogs with diabetes eat eggs?
Yes, in general, dogs with diabetes can eat eggs because it won’t cause a rise in their blood sugar levels. Eggs are also a very good protein source and contain other nutrients like iron, minerals, vitamins, and saturated fat. An egg has 75 calories and 7 grams of protein. However, we do encourage you to manage your dog’s weight if they have diabetes. Remember to control their diet, insulin, and exercise.
Do dogs with diabetes go blind?
Dogs with diabetes can get cataracts which may cause them to go blind. Cataracts cause cloudiness in a dog’s eyes that will make it difficult for them to see. Cataracts are not fatal, but they generally cause your dog’s quality of life to significantly decrease. This is one of the main reasons that people euthanize their dogs with diabetes.
How can you tell when a diabetic dog is dying?
Diabetic ketoacidosis(DKA) is a life-threatening condition that is a severe medical emergency. If you feel your dog is dying, you should visit an emergency veterinarian. Without immediate medical therapy, this is fatal. However, keep n mind that there are mild and severe cases of DKA.
Pet MD adds that “Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when the blood glucose (sugar) level in a dog’s body becomes dangerously high, either from lack of insulin production in the body or from the body’s inability to respond to the insulin produced.” Some of the symptoms include the following:
- Lethargy or depression
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Muscle loss
- Sweet breath
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Abnormal breathing
How long can a senior dog live with diabetes?
Dogs can live for many years with diabetes. Dogs can develop diabetes gradually, and you may not see the signs at first. However, a diabetic dog will have increased thirst and urination.
Additionally, they may develop chronic or recurrent infections with an enlarged liver. Obesity increases the risk of insulin resistance, so you should keep your senior dog at the right weight.
Quality of life in diabetic dogs can be maintained with veterinary care, diet modification, and glucocorticoids. As with all senior dogs, it’s key to work closely with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet receives the appropriate care. Dogs can live for several years with this condition.
Should I euthanize my dog with diabetes?
Although some dog owners will opt to euthanize their pets after a diabetes diagnosis, treatment and carefully managing diabetes will allow you to care for your dog successfully.
Treatment usually involves insulin injections, a weight loss plan, and oral medications. It’s key to understand that dogs can live long and healthy lives with this condition but only with the right treatment plan.
That’s why taking out pet insurance while your dog is young and healthy is critical to help defray veterinary costs in any health emergency. Your dog will have to undergo periodic reevaluations to ensure that the diabetes is controlled. Sometimes treatment changes if the condition worsens.
What are the final stages of diabetes?
Dogs with diabetes require special diets with weight loss and medication. If your pet is obese, this is a significant risk factor. VCA Animal Hospital explains that “The importance of home-monitoring of blood glucose levels cannot be overemphasized.” Your vet will let you know how many times a day you need to check your dog’s glucose levels.
That said, the final stages include diabetic ketoacidosis with some symptoms that include abnormal breathing, seizures, tremors, lethargy, vomiting, decreased appetite, and diarrhea.
Always work together with your vet and consult your veterinarian immediately if your dog’s behavior changes and he acts and looks worse.
Conclusion for Signs That Your Dog With Diabetes is Dying
Diabetes in dogs is a serious disease. If your dog shows any changes in its appetite, water consumption, or weight, speak with your veterinarian. Diabetes can be successfully managed with diet, exercise, and insulin. However, it’s important to remember that diabetes treatment is lifelong and needs to be monitored regularly.
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