Diabetes in Dogs & Blindness

By Lucy Bowles
Diabetes has become one of the most common diseases affecting dogs. Dogs of any age can be affected by diabetes, although the majority of dogs with diabetes are between the ages of seven and nine. Furthermore, 75 percent of dogs with diabetes develop cataracts that lead to blindness in just one year after being diagnosed, according to Animal Eye Care. If left untreated, diabetes in your dog can lead to permanent blindness.


Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to metabolize sugars, notes Dr. Leah Cohn of Pet Place. The four types of diabetes in dogs are Type 1, Type 2, Juvenile and diabetes insipidus (DI). Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes mellitus arises when the body is prevented from using insulin to break down sugars in the body. Juvenile diabetes occurs in a puppy and diabetes insipidus means that the dog is suffering from excessive thirst and urination. If left untreated, Types 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus can lead to blindness in a dog. The lack of insulin causes sugar to build up in the eye. The eye converts the sugar into sorbitol, which is another type of sugar. Sorbitol draws out excess water, which causes cataracts. As the cataract matures, it can quickly lead to blindness.


The symptoms of canine diabetes are very apparent, though there are differences as there more than one type of diabetes. Doctor Holly Nash of states that dogs with diabetes lose weight even if their eating habits don't change. In some cases their appetite may even increase. Some dogs may have increased urination and thirst. The dog may become uninterested in favorite activities and seem lethargic and lazy. Over time, as diabetes worsens in dogs, some will be affected by blindness. Signs of blindness in a dog will include clumsiness, disorientation, startled or fearful behavior.


As soon as you or your vet suspects that your dog may have diabetes, he will be tested. The test will include a urinalysis to check for infection and to check the levels of glucose in the urine. A blood test will also be required to check glucose levels. Additional tests may include x-rays and ultrasounds to check abnormalities in the body, adrenal gland tests, bile acid test and thyroid tests.


Diabetes is not curable, but it's treatable. Some types of diabetes resolve naturally. Dogs with type 1 diabetes will require daily injections of insulin to control glucose in the blood. Dogs with type 2 diabetes may receive oral medication to help the body control insulin production. Owners will need to closely monitor their dog's weight, provide them with a good diet and plenty of exercise. As for cataracts, some dog owners may elect to try surgery to remove them. However, this can be a quite expensive procedure that many can't afford. Some dog owners may choose not to do surgery and instead rely on providing their pet with a caring and loving home despite their vision lost.


Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented from occurring. Yet, proper maintenance your dog’s weight and health can help lowers the chanced of him developing diabetes and blindness. No matter what type of diabetes a dog becomes diagnosed with, as long as owners continue to give them the care the need, most of them live healthy, normal and long lives.
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