The low insulin level in the blood is the primary cause of diabetes mellitus in Labradors. With the body unable to produce enough insulin, the amount of sugar in the blood rises. Middle-aged dogs are at most risk. If left untreated, the disease can cause liver problems, blindness, kidney disease, and even death.
Diabetes mellitus in Labradors is of two types – Type I, which refers to the insufficient production or lack of the hormone insulin, and Type II, which is the inadequate response of the body’s cells to insulin. With a planned and strict feeding and exercise schedules, you can manage and even prevent it in your pet.
Understanding the Importance of Insulin
When your Labrador eats, his digestive system breaks down the food into different components. One of these components is glucose – a type of sugar and an essential fuel for the body cells. The intestines then absorb this dietary sugar into the blood, which transports it throughout the body.
Glucose is an important source of energy for the cells and organs. However, it needs insulin hormone produced by the pancreas to get absorbed by the body cells. When there is the deficiency of insulin, the glucose stays put in the blood. This results in hyperglycemia. Diabetes mellitus in Labradors occurs when hyperglycemia becomes chronic.
Causes of Diabetes Mellitus in Labradors
A number of causes lead to diabetes mellitus in Labradors. These include:
- viral infections
- chronic physical stress
- autoimmune diseases
- pancreatitis or injury to the pancreas
- hyperadrenocorticism, glandular disorder due to too much cortisol
- acromegaly or uncontrolled growth hormone
Diet and nutrition also contribute to a dog’s likeliness to get diabetes. Too much fat in the diet can cause pancreatitis that leads to diabetes. On the other hand, too much feeding leads to obesity. When your Labrador becomes obese, his fat cells release hormones and chemical messengers that support inflammation. This increases the risk of both pancreatitis and diabetes.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus in Labradors
During the early stages, dogs with diabetes mellitus display one or more of the following signs and symptoms.
- Excessive urination
- Excessive thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increased hunger
When diabetes progresses undetected, the symptoms become more pronounced and can include:
- appetite loss
Negative Effects of Diabetes Mellitus in Labradors
Whether your Labrador has Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, the disorder can cause a number of issues. In the latter stage, your Labrador may stay dehydrated and weak. He may also be more susceptible to infections and other debilitating effects.
With the body cells are deprived of glucose, which is the main source of their energy, the organ cells feel the pinch. As they starve, the body, in an attempt to provide them “fuel,” breaks down its own fats and muscles to use them as fuel – leading to muscle and weight loss.
A diabetic dog’s body cannot use the glucose. This leads to excessive sugar in the bloodstream. High sugar level cause damage to many organs, including eyes, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and nerves.
Left uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to complications. Early detection and proper management of this health condition are vital. Negative health effects of diabetes mellitus in Labradors include:
- cataracts that can lead to blindness
- urinary tract infections
- enlarged liver
- kidney failure
- diabetic acidosis
Diagnosing Diabetes Mellitus in Labradors
It is easy to diagnose in your Labrador. Blood tests that show high liver enzymes and electrolyte imbalances are indications of diabetes mellitus. Testings for excessive glucose in the blood and urine are also done to detect diabetes.
Treating Diabetes Mellitus in Labradors
Early diagnosis and treatment give diabetic dogs a better chance to live normal lives. The treatment of diabetes mellitus revolves around the diet management and insulin supplementations.
Veterinarians often recommend a special diet for diabetic dogs. Whether home-cooked or commercial dog food, a diabetic dog’s diet must contain good-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Low-fat dog food may also be recommended for diabetic dogs. Exercise can prevent sudden spikes in the glucose levels in your Labrador.
Helping Your Diabetic Labrador
A strict and regular exercise program is the most essential to prevent and treat diabetes mellitus in Labradors. It is very important that your Labrador does exercise every day and avoid being obese. Make sure he stays active. The duration of his exercise time should be given special attention. However, changing exercise routines too frequently may cause your Labrador to become hypoglycemic and it may endanger his life.
Schedule Your Labrador’s Meal Time
Diabetic dogs need a special diet. Feed your Labrador small meals at regular intervals throughout the day. This keeps the blood sugar stable.
Foods to Give Your Diabetic Labrador
There are many commercial foods available tailor-made for diabetic dogs. Most of them are high in fiber and are low in fat. Alternatively, you can cook low-fat food for your pet.
Foods to Avoid
Never give your Labrador foods that are high in glucose. Avoid giving your Labrador carbohydrates too. Soft dog foods as they often contain a lot of sugar and preservatives. Fatty and oily foods must also be discarded because they put extra stress on the pancreas.
Supplements for Diabetes in Labradors
Diabetic Labradors can also benefit from taking certain vitamins and supplements that help with glucose metabolism. One of those supplements is Brewer’s yeast, which helps the body in use glucose more effectively. Vitamins C and E are also recommended for diabetic dogs.