Diabetic Neuropathy in Dogs

Increased thirst or appetite can be a sign of canine diabetes which can lead to diabetic neuropathy.
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Diabetic neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes in humans, but it is an uncommon complication to canine diabetes. When it manifests, though, it can be life-changing to your dog. Diabetic neuropathy occurs when uncontrolled sugar levels in the blood damage the nerves in the body. For this reason, it is essential to regulate blood sugar levels in a diabetic dog. Often, glucose regulation is enough to reduce symptoms of diabetic neuropathy or make them disappear.

Diabetes and Your Dog

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is unable to use insulin correctly. Insulin is the body’s sugar regulator; if it is not working correctly, it can cause blood sugar levels to rise dangerously high. Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite and weight loss. If left untreated, constant high levels of blood glucose can damage the nerves in the body, leading to diabetic neuropathy.

Dog Breeds With Diabetes Predisposition

While diabetes can occur in any dog breed, certain breeds are genetically predisposed. These breeds include beagles, cairn terriers, dachshunds, golden retrievers, German shepherds, miniature schnauzers and poodles. If you notice you dog displaying any symptoms of diabetes, consult your veterinarian. This is especially true if your dog is one of these predisposed breeds. Early diabetes detection can reduce the risk of diabetic neuropathy.

How Diabetes Causes Neuropathy

A dog’s risk for developing diabetic neuropathy increases when high blood glucose levels are not controlled. Prolonged high glucose levels damage the protective covering on nerves, known as the sheath. When this sheath becomes damaged, the nerves no longer work as they should. In dogs, diabetic neuropathy typically affects the hind legs, resulting in weakness or paralysis. If left untreated, your dog may lose bladder and bowel control, may experience tissue death or gangrene, and could die.

Neuropathy Treatment Begins With Blood Sugar Regulation

With cases of diabetic neuropathy, the first course of treatment begins with the regulation of your dog’s blood glucose levels. In mild cases of neuropathy, blood glucose regulation is often enough to reduce or eliminate symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. In severe cases, regular supplements of vitamin B12 or prescription gabapentin may be necessary to help reduce the symptoms.