Diabetes Mellitus is a serious condition that may go undetected in German Shepherds during the early stages.
Treatment is available for dogs with diabetes, and those which are treated correctly will often live a long, happy life. But if a German Shepherd lives with untreated Diabetes Mellitus for long, it will suffer considerably, and eventually it will die.
Gaining a better understanding of the disease can help owners to watch for symptoms and seek diagnosis.
What is Diabetes Mellitus?
Diabetes Mellitus, or Type 1 diabetes, is a pancreatic disease that affects blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is insulin-dependent. In a healthy German Shepherd, the beta cells in the pancreas create the right amount of insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of glucose, or blood sugar, that is metabolized from the dog’s food and then transported to the cells of the body through the bloodstream.
But in a dog with diabetes, the beta cells in the pancreas do not function properly, causing a failure to create enough insulin, or sometimes producing none at all, which causes too much glucose to enter the blood stream.
Symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus
In order to catch the condition early enough that treatment can help, it’s important to watch for these symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus in your German Shepherd.
Changes in your dog’s usual behavior may point to an underlying condition. Any of these early behavioral symptoms may occur on their own or in combination with others. Some behavior changes you may notice in your German Shepherd include:
- Increased appetite
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Urination accidents
- Depression or lethargy
Other symptoms may include:
- Weight loss
- Appetite loss
- Urinary infections
- Coordination problems
- Confusion; disorientation
When the disease has progressed, a dog may have seizures, experience shock, or go into coma. At this point, it may already be too late to treat a diabetic dog. It is vital to take your German Shepherd to a vet if you notice any of the earlier symptoms in order to ensure that he can be treated before it’s too late.
Causes of Diabetes Mellitus
Some dogs are more prone to develop diabetes than others. Unspayed female dogs are more likely develop the condition than males due to female hormones interfering with insulin production. Further, dogs which are five years old or older are more likely to become diabetic than younger animals.
Although the exact cause of Diabetes Mellitus in German Shepherds cannot always be determined, the most common reason for the disease is a genetic predisposition. If you purchased your dog from a reputable breeder, you may be able to determine early if your dog is likely to develop this condition.
Another possible cause of diabetes in German Shepherds is an underlying autoimmune disorder, or another condition, such as Cushing’s Disease. Again, this may sometimes be predicted from health records from your breeder, but it is impossible to diagnose any disease or disorder without taking your dog to a veterinarian.
Obesity is another probable cause of diabetes in German Shepherds. This is one of the few causes which can generally be prevented by ensuring that your dog is fed a balanced diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates in order to maintain a healthy weight.
Although it is rarer for this to be the case, some steroid medications may also result in a dog developing diabetes. Protein deposits in the pancreas may be another cause, and chronic pancreatitis is also a likely culprit.
Diagnosis For Diabetes Mellitus
If you are at all concerned that your German Shepherd may be developing diabetes, it is vital to take your dog to see a vet for possible diagnosis.
A vet will first perform a basic physical exam on your dog. You will also be asked to describe the behavior and symptoms you have observed. Finally, the vet will conduct blood work and a urinalysis in order to definitively determine if your German Shepherd is diabetic.
Blood and urine tests will show what levels of glucose are present. This will determine whether your dog is producing enough insulin in the pancreas. Other tests may also be performed to check for another underlying condition.
Once a diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus has been given, the vet will prescribe treatment for the condition.
Treatment Of Diabetes Mellitus
If a German Shepherd is diagnosed with diabetes, the animal will likely need regular insulin shots in order to manage the disease. Almost all diabetic dogs require insulin treatment, regardless of the progression and severity of the condition.
There are some cases, however, in which oral medication for hypoglycemia may be enough to manage the dog’s diabetes. Oral medication is often prescribed in combination with a diet high in protein and fiber and low in carbohydrates. This combined effort may be enough to lower your German Shepherd’s high blood sugar levels.
Your vet will show you how to administer insulin shots or other treatment at home. You may also be shown how to monitor your dog’s blood sugar levels. Working with your vet to create a schedule for treatment and meal times will also help your dog’s symptoms to be managed.
Most vets will also recommend that if your dog is female, it should be spayed if it has not already been.
Prognosis For Diabetes Mellitus
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Diabetes Mellitus. However, most dogs that are treated properly with the necessary insulin shots, and any other treatment the vet may recommend, will live a reasonably normal life.
While in some cases, if the disease is not severe or caught early, dietary treatment may be enough, it is almost always vital for a diabetic dog to receive insulin shots daily. Failing to provide treatment will result in the animal suffering unnecessarily and inevitably dying.
Because of the severity of the condition, you should make a vet appointment for your German Shepherd as soon as you begin noticing symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus.