The Ins and Outs of Diabetes Mellitus in Senior German Shepherds

Updated: Apr 10

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 Senior 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 Senior 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 senior 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 fur friend which will include a full blood test and urinalysis to show the levels of glucose in his blood and if his pancreas is producing enough insulin. Testing will also help determine if there are 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 diabetes. If caught early enough, you may be instructed to change your fur friend's diet to include fewer carbs (low glycemic) and more fiber (but not too much) and protein. Also to 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 in an effort to keep your fur friend at a healthy weight.

If your senior 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 then 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 would need to have with your trusted veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your fur friend. 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, making sure your fur friend receives the correct treatment at the correct time of day and keeping his diet and exercise routine consistent is crucial for his health and wellbeing, so be sure to follow your vet's instructions to a "T". Seriously folks, giving the insulin injection before rather than after feeding your fur friend 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 Senior German Shepherds With Diabetes:

Sad to say, but there is no cure for Diabetes Mellitus, but with proper treatment from your trusted veterinarian and a senior 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.

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Our fur friends don't live forever.....none of us do.... but as your German Shepherd ages, it's important to know the typical aliments your fur friend can suffer from and how to navigate the waters if something does come up, instead of being blindsided and feeling helpless. We want to help you with that. At the end of season three of #LifeWithOldDogs® podcast and blog posts, we will send you the entire season's worth of all the information we cover in a FREE ebook, so be sure to subscribe to be "in the Know."