Caring for a dog with an incurable disease like diabetes is not easy. Diabetes is a life-long condition that will impact everything your dog does. It influences other areas of their health and can also lead to a litany of other problems.
The good news is that canine diabetes is a lot more understood now than in the past. Veterinary science has come a long way, and diabetes is quite manageable when if caught early. It's no longer a death sentence.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to put your dog down the moment they're diagnosed.
However, there will come a time when the disease ravages the body beyond the point of return. Even with the best management, diabetes does not have a cure. So, how do you know that your dog is in the last stage of life?
To understand that, we have to look into diabetes and what it does to the canine body.
Canine diabetes is a condition that that revolves around the pancreas. It's very similar to human diabetes and impacts the body in many of the same ways.
The pancreas is responsible for producing a hormone called insulin. Insulin controls the body's ability to absorb glucose from the blood for use as energy.
When a dog is diagnosed with diabetes, it means that this process is disrupted. The body can't absorb glucose, leading to high blood sugar levels and a host of other issues.
There are two types of diabetes. Both lead to the same life-threatening problems, but the exact culprit varies.
Type 1 Diabetes
Also known as Insulin-Deficient Diabetes, this version means that your dog cannot produce enough insulin. The pancreas isn't performing as it should, resulting in a significant drop in hormone production.
In some cases, the pancreas can stop creating insulin entirely.
This form of diabetes is the most common in dogs. It is manageable, but it required regular insulin injections to ensure that the body effectively converts glucose.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is also referred to as Insulin-Resistant Diabetes.
When a dog is diagnosed with Type 2, its body doesn't use insulin correctly. The pancreas might continue to produce insulin. But if the body can't process it as it should, it's useless.
Overweight and elderly dogs are the most at risk for type 2 diabetes. While not as common as the former, it's still relatively widespread.
Read this article on the differences between Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabeted in Dogs
What's the Average Lifespan of a Diabetic Dog?
As mentioned earlier, canine diabetes doesn't have to be a death sentence.
Dogs can live long after an official diagnosis. In fact, the dogs put on an effective treatment plan typically die from something else instead of succumbing to the illness.
Of course, all dogs are different, and there are no guarantees involved with diabetes. That said, the median survival rate for diabetic dogs is two years.
That means most canines continue living relatively healthy lives for an additional two years once they start treatment.
Some dogs live even longer! It all depends on the treatment plan and insulin therapy.
Signs That a Diabetic Dog is Dying
All cases of canine diabetes are different. While you can adopt a strict care regime with your doctor, there's always a chance that your companion's condition worsens.
Here are some common symptoms dying dogs may experience when diabetes runs its course.
Dogs with diabetes are prone to urinary tract infections. It tends to become increasingly common as dogs get closer to death.
Bacteria is to blame for the prevalence of infections. You see, diabetic dogs have more dilute urine than healthy dogs.
Because it's less concentrated than usual, the bacteria-killing chemicals are diluted, too. As a result, bacteria can take hold more effectively.
As if that weren't bad enough, diabetic urine is high in sugar content. The sugar feeds and supports the bacteria, allowing them to flourish.
Finally, diabetic dogs have swollen bladders. The thriving bacteria stays in contact with the bladder for longer than it should, resulting in severe infections.
In the late stages of life, seizures can become a regular occurrence, too.
During a seizure, the brain can experience irreversible damage. There are many types of attacks. Contrary to popular belief, they don't always involve extreme physical convulsions.
Sometimes, they're more muted and harder to identify.
Either way, seizures are a serious event that can make life harder for your dog. They appear for many reasons.
It could be because your dog has too much or too little insulin in the body. Or, it could be a byproduct of kidney failure.
Kidney failure is one of the many unfortunate complications that diabetes causes.
The excess blood sugar wreaks havoc on the filtering organ. It damages those fine filtering units, resulting in eventual organ failure.
Dogs cannot live without functioning organs. It's a slow killer that manifests itself in the late stage of life.
Symptoms include extreme lethargy, vomiting, and decreased urine. The prognosis for kidney failure in diabetic dogs is not good. In a majority of cases, it leads to death.
Ketoacidosis is perhaps, one of the most alarming complications of diabetes. When ketoacidosis starts to occur, it's a telltale sign that your dog is slowly dying.
It happens quickly and sometimes occurs only a couple of months after a diabetes diagnosis. However, even dogs who have experienced tons of healthcare support can show signs of ketoacidosis once the body starts rejecting treatment.
Ketoacidosis occurs when there's not enough insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. In response, the body goes into panic mode.
It starts to metabolize body fat to create ketones. Ketones are a source of fuel that doesn't rely on insulin to access.
Unfortunately, too many ketones will negatively impact your dog's health. It throws off the pH levels in the body and creates a highly acidic environment.
This disrupts the normal balance of electrolytes and the eventual shutdown of many biological functions. It can make dogs violently ill before leading to organ failure and eventual death.
Should You Put a Diabetic Dog to Sleep?
Deciding to put a diabetic dog down is a tough one. However, it's sometimes the only course of action to provide relief for a suffering companion.
There's no "correct" time to consider euthanasia. It all depends on your dog's quality of life, prognosis, and treatment options. At some point, many diabetic dogs fail to respond to therapy.
They begin to experience the late-stage symptoms of diabetes. When this happens, their suffering increases significantly.
Putting your dog to sleep could end the pain and help them cross over the Rainbow Bridge in peace.
If you suspect that your dog is dying from diabetes, have a conversation with your vet. They can advise you on the best course of action.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you. But, your vet can guide you in the right direction and go over all of your options.
There are a lot of ways to keep a diabetic dog healthy. But the gravity of the condition is not one that you can ignore.
The final stages of diabetes can be particularly difficult for both you and your dog. Understanding the signs of suffering will help you make those all-important decisions for your dog.