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The Ins and Outs of Diabetes Mellitus in Older German Shepherds

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Older German Shepherds are at a higher risk for developing Diabetes Mellitus, which is similar to type 1 diabetes in humans, where the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin resulting in high blood glucose. It is the most common type of Diabetes in older German Shepherds. Therefore, it's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms so that you can get your fur friend the treatment he needs as soon as possible. This condition is treatable, but it is important to catch it early to have the best success.

In this blog post, we'll discuss the "ins and outs" of Diabetes Mellitus.

What Causes Diabetes In Older German Shepherds?

Older German Shepherds are more prone to developing Diabetes than their younger counterparts because as they age, their body's ability to produce insulin decreases, and typically they become less active, which leads to weight gain. Another factor that determines which fur friend gets Diabetes is genetics. Certain breeds are prone to developing Diabetes, and German Shepherds have a greater-than-average likelihood of developing Diabetes. Other factors in which fur friend develops Diabetes are an underlying autoimmune disease or having illnesses such as Cushing's disease and Hypothyroidism. And finally, sometimes medications such as steroids may play into a diagnosis of Diabetes.

What Are The Signs Of Diabetes In Older German Shepherds?

  • Excessive drinking

  • Excessive eating

  • Frequent urination

  • Urinating in the house

  • Urinary Tract Infections

  • Weight loss

  • Dull coat

  • Sweet smelling breath

  • Lack of energy

  • Vomiting

  • Poor vision/Cloudy eyes/Cataracts

  • Lack of coordination

  • Neurological issues, including seizures

  • Collapsing

  • Shock

  • Coma

How Is Canine Diabetes Diagnosed?

If you suspect your older German Shepherd might have Diabetes, it is essential to seek veterinary care right away. Your trusted veterinarian will listen to your concerns while performing a thorough exam on your dog, which will include a complete blood test and urinalysis to show the glucose levels in his blood and if his pancreas is producing enough insulin. Testing will also help determine any underlying issues, such as Cushing's or Hypothyroidism. Also, at this time, your vet should test to determine if there has been any organ damage, if any, due to Diabetes perhaps not being detected soon enough.

Treatment For Canine Diabetes:

Treatment depends on the severity of the Diabetes. You may be instructed to change your dog's diet to include fewer carbs (low glycemic), more fiber (but not too much), and protein if caught early enough. Also, incorporate fewer but healthier snack options throughout the day...healthy, like dehydrated meat, not commercial treat crap ;). Additionally, your vet may suggest an exercise routine that is not too rigorous but remains consistent to keep your dog at a healthy weight.

Suppose your older German Shepherd has been diagnosed with Diabetes, and the disease has progressed to the point where merely changing his diet and ramping up his exercise routine doesn't do the trick. In that case, he will need medication along with the diet and exercise change.

In terms of medication, sometimes an oral medication will be prescribed, but statistically, they aren't as effective as an injection and aren't realistic in all cases. This is a conversation you need to have with your trusted veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your dog. In all probability, he will most likely need insulin injections one or more a day to keep his blood sugar stable.

Another aspect of the treatment plan is addressing any underlying issues, so if he does have Cushing's disease or an underactive thyroid, that will need to be addressed.

And last but certainly not least, ensuring your dog receives the correct treatment at the correct time of day and keeping his diet and exercise routine consistent is crucial for his health and well-being, so follow your vet's instructions precisely. Seriously folks, giving the insulin injection before rather than after feeding your dog can have serious consequences, so be sure you fully comprehend your vet's instructions on how and when to give the insulin, how and when he should eat, as well as what he can and shouldn't eat.

Prognosis For Older German Shepherds With Diabetes:

Sad to say, but there is no cure for Diabetes Mellitus, but with proper treatment from your trusted veterinarian and an older German Shepherd mom or dad with an "eagle eye" doing whatever it takes to keep your fur friend happy and healthy, he can go on to live a relatively normal life.

If you'd like to listen to the podcast that coincides with this blog post, click on the link:


***** Disclaimer: Throughout the "20 Most Common Health Issues in Senior German Shepherds" series, each blog post is expressed explicitly from our point of view and is not to be substituted for the professional medical expertise of your trusted veterinarian.


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