Diabetic Neuropathy in Dogs

Neuropathy is dysfunction or rupture in nerves and this is pretty common in diabetic dogs. In the following article, we will discuss all about neuropathy in diabetic dogs and what you can do to prevent or treat it.

neuropathy in diabetic dogs

What is diabetic Neuropathy in dogs? 

Diabetes is a common and often the main cause of neuropathy. In neuropathy, nerves either get damaged or ruptured which causes a tingling or “dead” sensation in a dog’s body.

The brain and spinal cords are connected with a whole bunch of nerves. When any of these nerves get damaged, the connection within the nerves and with the brain and spinal cord is weakened or disconnected.

In neuropathy, your dog can have a tingling sensation,  burning pain,  weakness,  throbbing pain, or sharp pain depending on how severe neuropathy is.

How neuropathy affects diabetic dogs?

Neuropathy can have long-term and sometimes irreversible effects on diabetic dogs. In diabetes, the dog’s body is already fighting hard as it depends on an external source (insulin)  to do its work.

There are three types of nerves and damage in any of them can cause failure in different body organs of your dog.

  • The dogs’ senses are connected with sensory nerves. When neuropathy exists in sensory nerves, it damages the dog’s eyesight,  smell, taste,  hearing, and touch. When your diabetic dog is not taking your commands well, he may not be hearing properly. Similarly, if the dog can’t differentiate between bumps and the normal road he may be can’t see properly.

These are signs that a dog’s nerves are damaging and the link with the brain is weakening. If you notice any change in response related to the five senses of your diabetic dog,  chances are he is having neuropathy.

  • Then there is another group of nerves that gives and takes command about body movements. They connect the brain and muscles. Neuropathy in motor nerves can affect the overall movement and coordination between body organs of your diabetic dog.

If your diabetic dog is having uncoordinated movements and can’t control his motor responses,  he is having motor nerve neuropathy. Usually, this type of neuropathy targets the limbs of your dog.

  • Also, there is another set of nerves that control “auto movements” that are not in direct control of your dog. These include breathing, digestion,  sweating or bladder control, etc. When neuropathy happens in these autonomic nerves, your dog may lose bladder control, or symptoms like panting show up. (Read dog diabetes symptoms panting)

What causes neuropathy in diabetic dogs?

Diabetic dogs are more likely to get neuropathy. In diabetes,  the cells get deprived of oxygen supply. So the connection of nerves and brain starts getting weaker.

  • Cancer or autoimmune diseases in diabetic dogs can cause neuropathy sooner than expected.
  • Diabetes mostly causes neuropathy in small nerves which causes a burning sensation, especially in dogs’ limbs.
  • If your diabetic dog gets injured, he may get neuropathy in the injured area.
  • Consistent pressure on an area can cause neuropathy.
  • Infections are the additional reason why the diabetic dog gets neuropathy. (Read diabetic dog skin problems)
  • Medication or treatments can be a reason for damaged nerves. (Read adequan problems)
  • Any weakness in limbs may cause neuropathy in diabetic dogs(read puppy front leg shaking)
  • Poisoning can also rupture nerves. (Read dog stung by the yellow jacket).
  • Electrolyte imbalances and kidney problems are other reasons for neuropathy.
  • Age factor too plays an important role. Adult or older diabetic dogs are more prone to neuropathy.

How to know your diabetic dog is having neuropathy?

Almost 80% of diabetic dogs will get neuropathy. The remaining 20% will also get it but maybe at later stages in life. The severity of the condition very much depends on the overall health of your diabetic dog. The better you are managing his diabetes, the lesser will be the chances of damaged nerves.

As your dog can’t tell you what he is feeling,  you need to pay attention to diabetic dog neuropathy symptoms. To guess if your dog is having neuropathy,  observe if he is showing

How to diagnose neuropathy in dogs?

If you observe any of the above symptoms,  take your dog to the vet. The vet will check the sensory responses of your dog. Your dog might have to undergo blood testing and tests like MRI, EMG, or skin Biopsies to check the severity level of neuropathy. Knowing Genetic history is also important because genetics is a major factor in diabetes too.

How do you prevent and treat neuropathy in diabetic dogs?

Not all neuropathic conditions can be reversed in diabetic dogs.  However, with careful treatment and prevention strategies,  your diabetic dog can get better. For this

  • Manage diabetes as effectively as you can. Make a routine to follow. Your dog must eat, sleep and exercise at the proper time.
  • Don’t put physical pressure on your dog. He must do light exercise as excessive exercise is not good for diabetic dogs. It can cause low blood sugar in dogs and trigger neuropathy. (Read when to test dog blood sugar?)
  • Make the space comfortable. Don’t contain your diabetic dog in a smaller area. Also, make sure the bed is comfortable for your dog. He must sleep well and in a comforting posture.
  • Feed your dog healthy food and add supplements to boost immunity. (Read is Freshpet food good for the diabetic dog?)
  • There are special exercises that target the strengthening of muscles.
  • Treat scars, wounds, and injuries with care.
  • Keep your dog hydrated. Dehydration can cause electrolyte imbalances and kidney infections. This can also trigger the condition called ketoacidosis in diabetic dogs.  (Read double dose of insulin dogs)

Neuropathy mostly starts in diabetic dogs’ feet. So make sure your dog doesn’t walk on roads where he has a chance to hurt his feet. Also, make your home a safe space for dogs. Remove any items from the floor that may cause bumps and injuries. (Read why my dog is scratching carpet in the middle of the night?)

Is Neuropathy Reversible?

This is a false statement that neuropathy can be controlled or reversed.  You can manage and make the condition better which may also improve with time, but neuropathy is hardly reversible in diabetic dogs. So it’s better to start adopting prevention strategies for neuropathy,  once your dog is diagnosed with diabetes.

Most of the time,  when your diabetic dog is diagnosed with neuropathy,  there is a certain amount of damage already done. If the dog’s reason for neuropathy is treatable,  the dog will get better with time.  Still, there is no guarantee that the damage is fully repairable or reversible.

You have to stick to a care and maintenance routine. Even if the condition doesn’t get better,  the damage has to stop. If you will not treat neuropathy,  your dog may lose a limb or even die.

How long your dog will survive after being diagnosed with neuropathy?

This also depends on the condition of the dog. A normal diabetic dog has anyway a life expectancy of 2 years. Neuropathy if managed well, may slow down the recession in the dog’s condition. In severe cases like paralysis, the diabetic dog may live up to 6 months but the approximate survival time is 2 months in critical conditions.

When to euthanize your dog?

No one wants this for their beloved puppy but there comes a time when all your puppy is facing is hardships of life. Euthanizing is giving your dog a pain-free exit from a continuous miserable life.

Neuropathy is irreversible. If neuropathy has done severe damage to your dog,  like paralysis in most parts of the body, your dog can’t feed, urinate and even move properly.  This is a time to say goodbye. Diabetic dogs are euthanized by giving an overdose of insulin which ensures easy pain-free death for dogs.

Conclusion:

Neuropathy is mostly irreversible in diabetic dogs. However proper management may make your dog’s condition better and stop deteriorating it further. Ensuring that your dog gets proper treatment will slow down the recession in his condition.

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