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Especially as dogs reach middle and older ages, veterinarians watch for polydipsia, or the excessive consumption of water. There are many causes of polydipsia besides diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. Kidney disease and Cushing's are also common reasons. Liver disease, hypercalcemia, and thyroid disease can also cause polydipsia. Regular annual bloodwork can help to detect problems.
Most people have heard of diabetes and associate it with needing to administer insulin. But actually there are two different kinds of diabetes: diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. Their symptoms can be similar, but their causes are totally different and thus their treatments are completely different.
Diabetes mellitus is the more common of the two; it is caused by a lack of insulin in the affected dog. Insulin helps to move glucose into cells. If there is no insulin, glucose builds up in the blood, and cells do not get the energy they need. Diseases such as Cushing's and pancreatitis can lead to diabetes mellitus. The use of steroids and being overweight can also predispose dogs to this condition. Diabetic dogs are all Type 1 diabetics in that they all require insulin (the oral medications that people with Type 2 diabetes use do not work in dogs) for the rest of their lives. Dogs with diabetes mellitus also frequently develop cataracts and urinary tract infections.
Both types of diabetes cause extreme water consumption; this symptom is called polydipsia. This leads to increased urination, and commonly accidents in the house. Polydipsia can be caused by many diseases, so laboratory tests are needed to confirm that it is being caused by diabetes.
Diabetes insipidus is caused by a reduced amount of ADH (antidiuretic hormone), a hormone that regulates water metabolism. ADH helps to keep water in the body, thus when there is too little ADH, the body can't conserve water well, and too much is released into the urine. The dog has to drink a lot of water to keep hydrated.
The drug vasopressin is used to treat diabetes insipidus. This may be administered by tablets given orally, or by drops put into the eye. Treatment is needed for the rest of the dog's life.
For both types of diabetes, it is important that water never be restricted. If the dog is polydipsic, her body is telling her to drink. There can be further organ damage if your dog is not allowed to drink enough water.
If your dog develops polydipsia, your veterinarian will need to get a good, thorough history, perform a physical exam, and do blood and urine tests. Your veterinarian can then help you and your dog develop a treatment plan.
"Water Diabetes in Dogs." Pet Health & Nutrition Information & Questions. PetMD, n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2014.
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Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.
The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.