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Diabetes in Labrador Dogs

| Updated September 26, 2017

Labrador retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States due to their reputation as loyal and friendly family dogs. Unfortunately, Labrador retrievers can also suffer from diabetes mellitus. This occurs due to the absence of, or insensitivity to, insulin. Diabetic Labrador retrievers must receive treatment when symptoms occur.


Diabetic Labrador retrievers are unable to produce enough insulin to prevent glucose production. This causes glucose concentration in the blood to rise and eventually allows the kidneys to leak glucose into the urine, according to Peter A. Graham BVMS, Ph.D. If high glucose levels continue, Labrador retrievers may suffer damage to the eyes, heart and blood vessels.


The most apparent clinical symptoms of diabetes are excessive urination due to the kidneys inability to dispose of excess glucose in the Labrador retriever's urine. The increase in urination will also cause an increase in water consumption, according to Graham. Other common signs include weight loss, cataracts, exercise intolerance and recurrent infections.


Diabetes can develop in Labrador retrievers due to predisposed genetics and environmental factors. Chronic pancreatitis is the cause of diabetes in 28 percent of diabetic dogs, according to Rebecca Price, M.D. The damage to the pancreas affects its ability to produce insulin. Pancreatitis is common in dogs that are fed a high-fat diet and are overweight, states Price. A pet owner can help prevent the onset of middle-aged diabetes in their Labrador retriever by ensuring it receives a healthy diet and regular exercise.


Insulin injections are the common choice of veterinarians for the treatment of diabetes in Labrador retrievers. Although oral hypoglycemics are useful in treating human and some feline diabetes, dogs are unable to digest the protein in the intestine when it is in tablet form, according to Graham. Instead, the injections used for Labrador retrievers allows for a slow absorption of the protein. Due to the small syringe and needle size used, dogs generally do not mind the injections, states Price.


Individual Labrador retrievers will require a tailored dose to suit its needs. This dosage should remain constant in order to help stabilize blood glucose levels, states Graham. Certain prescription diets can be useful when undergoing treatment because the content, volume and timing of meals will affect blood glucose levels. Regular veterinary visits to measure blood glucose might be necessary for some Labrador retrievers.