Diabetes mellitus, often commonly referred to as ''sugar diabetes,'' is a medical condition that can affect both humans and dogs. The main way to diagnose this condition in dogs is to measure its glucose levels via blood and urine tests. Elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine may provide a conclusive diagnosis of diabetes mellitus in dogs, says Dr. Eric Barchas, a veterinarian who works for several hospitals in the San Francisco Bay area.
Diabetes mellitus is a common endocrine condition caused by a deficiency of the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for metabolizing sugar, therefore its deficiency impairs the body's ability to dispose of excess sugar. This leads to chronically high glucose levels in the body which in turn causes the appearance of the classic symptoms of diabetes in dogs. Increased thirst, increased urination, weight loss, poor body condition, lethargy and blindness are symptoms indicative of high glucose levels, says Leah Cohn, a professor of veterinary medicine, in an article on Pet Place.
Diabetes is generally diagnosed in dogs by evaluating fasting glucose values. This means that in order to consider a dog diabetic, persistent glycosuria (high glucose values in the urine) and hyperglycemia (high glucose values in the blood) must exist when testing the dog on an empty stomach. The normal fasting value for blood glucose in dogs is between 75 and 120 mg per deciliter. The renal threshold for glucose is 180 mg per deciliter, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. This means that once the blood glucose levels are over 180 mg per deciliter, the excess glucose is passed in the urine.
In order to bring the glucose levels low, a vet will prescribe insulin. Determining the correct dosage, frequency of administration and type of insulin to best keep the high sugar levels down, however, may be challenging at times. This is why veterinarians often recommend blood glucose curves. A blood glucose curve requires several blood samples to be taken at regular intervals throughout a 24-hour period in order to monitor and assess the blood glucose levels. The blood glucose curve test results and the veterinarian's interpretation of them, may lead to altering the insulin level, according to Pet Place veterinarians.
Some dog owners may be interested in performing blood glucose level measurements and blood glucose curves at home by using human blood glucose testing instruments. This may be a good option as it eliminates the need to hospitalize the dog for a whole 24 hours and avoids dogs getting stressed. However, some dog owners may encounter difficulties with the calibration of human instruments, while others may be reluctant to collect blood samples from their dogs, says Dr. Barchas.
The goal in treating chronic diabetes in dogs is to aim for acceptable glucose levels. This means alleviating and reducing the presence of clinical signs and preventing the insurgence of potentially dangerous secondary conditions such as infections, ketoacidosis and eye problems. While not as ideal as the body’s natural regulation, owners should aim for levels between 80 and 250 mg per deciliter. Owners of dogs difficult to regulate should consult with their veterinarian for a step-by-step plan to rule out causes of insulin resistance, suggests Mar Vista Animal Medical Center.
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