Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is most commonly associated with diabetes. Watch for symptoms of high blood sugar in dogs and follow your veterinarian's advice to manage the condition and prevent serious complications.
Hyperglycemia in puppies and dogs
High blood sugar usually occurs when there isn't enough insulin or the insulin isn't working correctly to allow the body's cells to take in and utilize glucose. As a result, the cells aren't getting the energy they need to function, even though there is more than enough glucose in your dog's bloodstream.
The initial symptoms of high blood sugar in dogs include increased thirst, appetite and urination. You may notice that your dog is drinking and emptying the water dish more often and, as a result, needs more frequent trips outdoors to urinate. Increased urination is also a way for the body to get rid of excess blood sugar.
Additionally, your dog may have an increased appetite and try to eat more while maintaining or even losing weight. This occurs because the cells in your dog's body know they need more fuel in the form of glucose but are unable to access it from the bloodstream. Since the cells can't use glucose for fuel, the cells will start to utilize stored fat for energy.
Other symptoms and complications
While the early symptoms and stages of high blood sugar and diabetes aren't life-threatening, chronic hyperglycemia can have more serious consequences. Advanced symptoms include loss of appetite, low energy levels, depression and vomiting. In addition, advanced diabetes can cause complications in other organ systems. Some of these include cataracts in the eyes that can result in blindness, urinary tract infections. enlarged liver and kidney failure. Your dog may also have seizures.
If hyperglycemia is severe, it can cause ketoacidosis, a dangerous, life-threatening condition. This condition occurs when the dog's body produces ketones from fat so that the body can use fat as a fuel source. This increases the acidity within the body and causes an imbalance of fluids and minerals. As with hyperglycemia, dogs will have increased thirst and urination. Additional symptoms include weakness, lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, weight loss and muscle wasting, dehydration and increased respiration.
This is a medical emergency and you should contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice these symptoms. If left untreated, ketoacidosis can cause additional complications including heart and kidney failure, brain swelling and fluid in the lungs. This condition can be fatal.
Causes and risk factors
Diabetes is the most common cause of hyperglycemia. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1, or insulin deficiency, diabetes is the most common form in dogs. Dogs with this condition don't make enough insulin to meet the body's needs. Type 2, or insulin-resistant, diabetes is less common and usually affects older dogs. This type occurs when the body makes enough insulin, but the cells don't respond the way they should.
There are several factors that increase a dog's chances of getting diabetes. Older dogs are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than young dogs under the age of five. In addition, female dogs are more likely than male dogs to be diabetic. Obesity and the long-term use of steroid medications also increase risk. Some dog breeds prone to diabetes include beagles, Australian terriers, fox terriers, cairn terriers, Samoyeds, dachshunds, pugs, bichons frises and miniature poodles.
Other conditions that may cause hyperglycemia include Cushing's disease, excessive amounts of growth hormone and some types of cancer. If your dog has symptoms of high blood sugar, contact your veterinarian to determine the cause and create a treatment plan. Treatment will usually include giving your dog insulin daily and modifying her diet to ensure she is getting the correct amounts of fat, carbohydrates and protein for her size.