Q I know that people can help prevent diabetes by staying trim and active. I assume that’s true for dogs, too, right?
Dear Mr. Chase,
A Not really. In people, there are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is essentially a genetically pre-programmed condition. For reasons that have nothing to do with lifestyle, the pancreas stops producing the hormone insulin, which is needed for sugar to be transferred from the bloodstream to the body’s tissues, where it’s used for energy. Type 2 is the kind associated with lifestyle. Overweight, inactive people are much more prone to develop type 2 diabetes, which tends not to start out as severe as type I—the pancreas can still produce some insulin—and can sometimes be controlled without drugs if the person can lose some weight and become more physically active.
Unfortunately, dogs typically get type I diabetes. Out of nowhere, they develop markedly increased thirst and urination, sometimes accompanied by dramatic weight loss, and must have insulin injections for the rest of their lives, just like people with the type 1 version of the disease. The good news is that while diabetes is a serious condition, it can be managed very successfully with daily insulin injections given at precise times of day by dedicated owners. Sometimes dosages of insulin need to be adjusted, so partnering with a veterinarian for ongoing care is critical.
A dog of any breed can come down with diabetes, but Australian terriers, schnauzers, fox terriers, and bichons appear to be at higher risk. And intact females of any breed sometimes get transient diabetes after a heat cycle. Norwegian elkhounds are at higher risk than other breeds for post-heat diabetes, known medically as diestrus diabetes.