Is Diabetes The Same In Dogs as Humans?
It sometimes surprises people that dogs can even get diabetes. They can. But is it the same--same symptoms, same risks, same meds? Here are the similarities and difference of diabetes in dog and humans.
What is diabetes?
For both people and dogs, diabetes is a condition where sugar (also called glucose) is not processed properly.
When a person or a dog eats, they get glucose from the food eaten. Some foods create a lot more glucose than others. Once glucose is in the bloodstream, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin which ‘picks up’ the glucose and carries it to cells that need more energy. When there is diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin to direct the "sugar traffic". Much of the sugar doesn' t go anywhere--it just stays in the blood and the cells don't get the energy they need.
Canine diabetes resembles Type I diabetes in humans. When a person has this type of diabetes, they have to have insulin injections their entire life. As of now, this type of diabetes cannot be cured.
People who have Type II diabetes also need a healthy diet, but don’t require injections and can take oral medication to help control diabetes. Diabetes in dogs never resembles Type II diabetes.
A person with either type of diabetes should also undergo a change in lifestyle including a special diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight. This is the case with dogs as well.
Symptoms of Canine and Human Diabetes
Many are the same, in particular symptoms that are related to energy and hunger and thirst.
Type 1 Diabetes
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme fatigue and Irritability
- Unusual weight los
Type 2 Diabetes
Any of the symptoms from Type 1
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections
- Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections
- Drinking more
- Urinating more
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
If diabetes is uncontrolled
- Rapid breathing
Risks of Diabetes in both Dogs and Humans
Dogs and humans with diabetes only share some of the same risks, dogs have less.
- Glaucoma and problems with the retina
- Kidney disease
- Pancreatic diseases
- Problems with the feet
- Gum Disease
- Heart attack
- Cataracts – dogs are susceptible just as humans are
- Infections – both people and dogs are more susceptible to skin infections, wounds healing slowly, urinary tract and bladder infections, and pneumonia
- Pancreas problems – a common complication in dogs as with people, these problems may be caused by diabetes or may even cause diabetes
- Kidney problems – not common in dogs as it is people, but possible
- Nerve Problems – this is rarer in dogs than people. Numbness in
hands and feet in humans may translate to slow reflexes or weakness in
hind legs in dogs if it occurs at all.
- Problems with retina – common in diabetic people, but not dogs.
In general, treatment is the same for both people and dogs.
Diabetes in dogs cannot be controlled with any oral medication. A diabetic dog requires insulin shots to control diabetes.
Pork and beef derived insulins are used on dogs, not in humans. Humans use human recombinant insulin. And for dogs, intermediate-acting insulins are usually used (as opposed to short-acting or long-term) and usually need to be administered twice daily.
Humans have a lot more options for insulin including rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting. A doctor will prescribe insulin based on many more factors such as age, your response to the insulin, and your lifestyle.
Both humans and dogs need to maintain a properly balanced diet to keep blood sugar levels normal. This is a diet that keeps sugar levels lower in the blood and encourages nutrients that digestible and processed well by the body.
A healthy diet for a diabetic person or diabetic dog will include:
- complex carbohydrates and fiber (whole grains, vegetables)
- high quality proteins that are lean and low in fat
- vitamins and minerals (fruits and vegetables, healthy food choices, a supplement IF prescribed)
- reasonably sized meals
- meals eaten at a regular times
A healthy diet will avoid
- simple starches like refined grains such as white flour and any type of sugar
- lots of fats or fatty foods
- very large meals
For both diabetic humans and dogs, exercising regularly can significantly improve the how well the body works and processes nutrients. If overweight, weight loss will also help manage diabetes. Because medication and meals need to be at regular times, the person or dog owner may need to create a schedule or routines to manage diabetes.
Why compare diabetes in people and dogs? Scientists do it to uncover breakthroughs in treatment--for dogs as well as for humans. But for us, well, it is a little interesting. But more importantly, if you already have an understanding of diabetes in humans because you know someone with (or you have) this condition, it is so much easier to understand and manage diabetes in dogs.
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Diabetes is definitely a treatable condition, even in dogs. And, just as with people, the primary way of managing diabetes is through proper diet and eating habits. So what diabetic dog food should you give your dog?