Canine Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

Canine diabetic ketoacidosis, sometimes known as DKA, is a potentially fatal disease that most commonly occurs in dogs with uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, although in rare cases it has been known to appear in nondiabetic dogs. This condition symptomatically resembles that of diabetes but usually goes unnoticed until a near-fatal situation is at hand. For this reason, it is important to understand the causes, symptoms and treatment options.

How Canine Diabetic Ketoacidosis Develops

Under normal conditions, the pancreas is responsible for producing insulin, which helps to regulate the level of glucose in the blood cells. When the pancreas is ineffectively able to create enough insulin, a dog becomes diabetic. By default, a dog's body will begin looking for alternative fuel sources, such as fat.

The problem is that when too much fat is consumed by the body, the liver then begins to produce ketones. This excessive level of ketones causes the condition known as canine diabetic ketoacidosis. There are two scenarios in which this can occur: in dogs with poorly controlled diabetes and in dogs with undiagnosed diabetes.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Because of the potentially deadly side effects, it is crucially important that dog owners be aware of the symptoms of canine diabetic ketoacidosis. One of the more common problems associated with this illness is the extreme similarity of the warning signs to a diabetic condition. While both conditions are harmful, canine diabetic ketoacidosis represents the last step taken by the body before it surrenders to the condition.

The following are some of the recognizable symptoms of canine diabetic ketoacidosis:

  • Drinking or urinating more than usual
  • Sudden, excessive weight loss attributed to loss of appetite
  • General fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden onset of compromised vision

Identifying the Condition

If any of the above listed signs are noticed by a dog owner, it should prompt immediate medical evaluation. Initially, a thorough physical examination will be performed to identify the presence of dehydration, vision problems, or abdominal pain that the dog may be experiencing. All of these symptoms are indicative of either diabetes mellitus or canine diabetic ketoacidosis.

The most definite measure for diagnosing this condition is blood and urine testing. The ketones produced by the liver can be found in both the blood and the urine and will help to develop an accurate synopsis of the situation. If it is determined that a dog has a higher-than-normal level of ketones in the blood cells, in combination with the overview of symptoms, an accurate diagnosis can be made.

Treatment of the Condition

After the diagnosis has been made, treatment can begin. Unfortunately, most cases are extremely severe by the time they are identified by a veterinarian. What this means is that treatment may not render the desired results in all cases. In most dogs, however, the associated symptoms, like dehydration, will be the primary concern before any type of medical treatment is given. Intravenous fluids may be given to try to return a dog to his normal state, and after that has been done, the veterinarian can begin trying different levels of insulin.

The amount of insulin needed and the frequency at which it is administered will largely depend upon the severity of the illness, and this will usually require some trial and error. Roughly 65% of all dogs can recover from their situation once it has been diagnosed, which enforces the need for dog owners to be familiar with the symptoms of canine diabetic ketoacidosis.