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Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a problem in the Samoyed. In a report from the Veterinary Medical Data Bases (VMDB) that includes data collected from 24 veterinary universities between 1964 through 1995, diabetes mellitus was in the top 5 illnesses for Samoyeds. The majority of cases were in Samoyeds 7 years and older. Females are twice as likely as males to get diabetes.

To read about "the other diabetes", diabetes insipidus (DI), click here.

Important: There is a genetic study underway to search for the gene associated with an increased risk for diabetes. Dr. Rebecka S. Hess, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, did a retrospective statistical analysis and found that Samoyeds are 12 times more likely to have diabetes mellitus than mixed dog breeds (ref. 5). Click here for more information on how to participate in this research study.

There is a lot of wonderful information available on the web on canine diabetes, so I will only touch on the highlights here. Be sure to check the links below for more information.

Diabetes mellitus results when the body has an insufficient supply of insulin available. Insulin is a hormone produced in the beta islet cells of the pancreas that is responsible for regulating the concentration of glucose (sugar) in the blood and also for allowing the body's cells to use the glucose. Glucose is a necessary source of energy for the body's metabolism. If there is not enough insulin available, the glucose cannot get into the cells to be utilized and there will be a rise in the blood sugar level called hyperglycemia. When the glucose level gets so that high that the sugar spills over into the urine, it is called glucosuria. Finding sugar in the urine is one of the presenting signs of this disease.

  • Type I -- Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM) -- low to non-detectable levels of insulin available for use. This is the most common type of diabetes in canines. A source of exogenous insulin is required.
  • Type II - Non-Insulin-Dependent DM (NIDDM) -- there is insulin present, but not enough to get the job done or there is delayed secretion of the insulin. May or may not require exogenous insulin source.
  • Immune-mediated pancreatic beta cell destruction
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Genetic susceptibility
  • Infectious diseases (viral)
  • Predisposing diseases like Cushing's Disease and acromegaly
  • Drugs like steroids and progesterone
Risk factors:
  • Obesity for Type II
  • Pregnancy
  • Diestrus
Signs and Symptoms:
  • increased water consumption (polydipsia)
  • increased urination (polyuria)
  • increased hunger (polyphagia)
  • weight loss
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
  • Recent weight loss after obesity
  • Bilateral cataracts (see below under complications)


Diagnostic tests:

  • Glucose in urine (glucosuria) should be confirmed with

  • Elevated fasting blood glucose (normal for dogs = 75-120 mg/dL)


Treatment of Type I:




Management tips:
  • Monitoring glucose levels at home and reading levels with Blood Glucose Concentrations Chart. Regular vet check ups, every 3-6 months is also recommended, even after the pet's diabetes is stabilized.
  • There must be strict dietary management for all diabetic dogs and gradual weight reduction for obese dogs. For obese dogs, the diet should be low in fat, high in fiber and high in complex carbohydrates. Whether the pet is obese or not, the timing of the meals and insulin injections is very important. Even a small table scrap could be very harmful to the dog. There are some veterinary prescription diets available for the diabetic dog from Hill's®. The most important thing, is that the dog MUST eat. For dogs that do not find the prescription diets palatable, here is some information on prescription diets and home cooking for the diabetic pet, some of which combine veterinary diets with home recipes. Regardless of the diet you decide to use, be sure to have it approved by the veterinarian caring for your diabetic pet.
  • Regular, consistent exercise is important. Too much exercise can cause a precipitous drop in blood glucose levels -- enough to cause a hypoglycemic episode.
  • Intact bitches should be spayed as soon as the diabetes is stabilized because the progesterone secreted during diestrus causes problems with the management of the diabetes.
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can occur if blood glucose levels drop too low due to too much insulin or too little food. This is an emergency situation and fast action is required to save your dog's life. Learn how to manage a hypoglycemic crisis. Signs of hypoglycemia and treatment.
  • A majority of dogs with diabetes will develop diabetic cataracts. The following information is provided by Kerry Meydam, a Canadian Samoyed fancier who has cared for two diabetic Samoyeds. "Diabetic Cataracts alone can (and usually do) cause vision loss, but the dog should be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist after diagnosis of diabetes or as soon as there are any even slight changes in the eyes. Some dogs will only lose vision with these cataracts, which can develop and mature in a matter of weeks. Others, however, may develop uveitis (inflammation) and glaucoma as complications of diabetic cataracts which leak lens proteins into the eye and cause severe inflammation. Many veterinary ophthalmologists will prescribe eyedrops such as Voltaren® (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) as a preventive measure. Once uveitis has started, it must be treated promptly to prevent it from developing into glaucoma, or causing retinal degeneration/detachments. Unfortunately, after uveitis occurs, the risk of complications
    for cataract surgery increases, and the dog may no longer be a good candidate for successful cataract surgery in the future. If a diabetic dog does have lens-induced uveitis, most regular vets don't want to prescribe steroid eyedrops (because of the diabetes). However, uveitis must be aggressively treated because if it progresses to glaucoma, not only is vision loss permanent, but many of these dogs must have their eyes removed because of the pain. That is something that is very difficult for most owners to accept. There are other choices (intraocular prosthesis) but all are expensive and emotionally difficult for the owner."
  • Closely monitor the overall health of the dog. Diabetic dogs have a decreased resistance to infections and may have recurrent bouts of prostatitis, cystitis , pneumonia and dermatitis. Infections cause an increased burden on the insulin/blood glucose balance; as the bacteria multiply, there is a concomitant rise in blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia).
  1. Tilley, LP, Smith, FWK, The 5 Minute Veterinary Consult, Canine and Feline. 1997, Williams & Wilkins.
  2. Mordecai Siegal (Ed.) The UC Davis Book of Dogs. 1995, HarperCollins Publishers.
  3. Bonagura, JD (ed.) Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XIII Small Animal Practice. 2000,W. B Saunders Company.
  4. Aiello, SE (Ed.) The Merck Veterinary Manual, Eight Edition, 1998. Merck & Co., Inc.
  5. Hess, RS, Kass, PH and Ward, CR. Breed distribution of dogs with diabetes mellitus admitted to a tertiary care facility. JAVMA, Vol 216, No. 9, May 1, 2000, p. 1414-1417.
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Last updated: Saturday, February 06, 2010

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