It’s heartbreaking to think about our furry friends reaching the end of their lives, especially when they are battling a chronic illness like diabetes. While dogs with diabetes can live for a year or two after diagnosis with proper treatment, it is normal to worry about their quality of life as time goes on. So, how can you tell if a dog with diabetes is nearing the end? In this article, we will explore the signs that indicate a dog with diabetes may be reaching the final stages of their journey.
What Are the Signs That a Dog With Diabetes Is Dying?
Most dogs with diabetes suffer from an autoimmune form of the disease, where their own immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. As the disease progresses, these dogs will no longer produce enough insulin to survive without treatment. Some early signs of diabetes in dogs include increased thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, and a seemingly insatiable appetite. If left untreated, these symptoms will worsen rapidly. Here are the signs that indicate advancing diabetes:
- A dramatic increase in thirst and urination
- Lethargy and weakness
- Severe weight loss
- Repeated infections, particularly bladder infections
- Sticky and sweet-smelling urine
- Diabetic neuropathy (more common in cats than dogs)
If diabetes goes untreated or is poorly managed, it can progress to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be fatal if not treated promptly by a veterinarian.
Undiagnosed and Untreated Diabetes
Dogs that develop diabetic ketoacidosis often have diabetes that hasn’t been diagnosed or isn’t being treated with insulin. Insulin is crucial for moving glucose, a type of sugar, out of the bloodstream and into cells where it is used as an energy source. Without enough insulin, a dog’s blood glucose levels spike dangerously high, while their cells are being starved for glucose. To compensate for this lack of glucose inside the cells, the body begins breaking down muscles and fat to produce energy. This process leads to the production of ketone bodies, which can make the body too acidic, resulting in diabetic ketoacidosis. Prolonged acidosis can cause electrolyte imbalances, muscle damage, heart failure, fluid buildup in the lungs, kidney damage, or even death. Signs that a dog might be suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis include:
- More severe lethargy and weakness
- Mental dullness
- Rapid breathing
- Breath that smells like acetone (similar to nail polish remover or paint remover)
Fortunately, dogs can recover from diabetic ketoacidosis with proper veterinary care, which may include intravenous fluids, insulin injections, medication to correct electrolyte abnormalities and acidosis, and symptomatic care.
Treated Diabetes With Complications
Even dogs receiving treatment for diabetes can develop ketoacidosis, usually due to other health problems that require a higher insulin dose than they are receiving. Conversely, giving a dog too much insulin can be just as dangerous. Dogs with declining insulin needs or accidental overdoses may experience dangerously low blood sugar levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Signs of hypoglycemia in dogs include sleepiness, hunger, shivering, unsteadiness, disorientation, seizures, coma, and, in extreme cases, death.
If you suspect your diabetic dog is hypoglycemic, do NOT administer more insulin. Instead, rub corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, or a sugar solution on their gums if they allow it, and take them to the nearest veterinarian immediately.
When Should You Consider Euthanasia for a Dog With Diabetes?
Monitoring a diabetic dog’s quality of life is essential. Using a pet quality of life scale can help you identify areas that might be causing your dog distress. Pay attention to eating, drinking, urination, defecation, mental health, and the well-being of your canine companion’s human family members. By identifying any issues, you can work with your veterinarian to improve your dog’s comfort. For instance, if your dog is experiencing discomfort, your vet may recommend additional pain-relieving medications. Financial assistance or respite care may also be available to help with the demands of your pet’s care.
If your dog’s quality of life remains poor with no reasonable expectation of improvement, it may be time to consider euthanasia. While making end-of-life decisions is never easy, euthanasia is often a humane choice to prevent further suffering.
Remember to always consult with your veterinarian if you have concerns about your dog’s quality of life. They are your best resource for information on treatment options and available support in your area.
This article is brought to you by Katten TrimSalon, where we care deeply about the well-being of your furry companions.