Diabetes in Dogs: Learn More About Types, Symptoms and Possible Treatments

Check your dog for diabetes
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Does your dog look depressed or nauseated recently? Does he urinate more often? The chances are you need to check your dog’s blood sugar levels! Diabetes in dogs is one of the most common medical conditions that older dogs develop in their lives. Just like diabetes in humans, the same condition is manageable and treatable in dogs, with necessary care.

With negligence, the complexity of the matter increases to develop into deadlier diseases. With due awareness, information, tests and professional assistance of a veterinarian, you can help your diabetic dog to be happy, healthy and energetic!

What does diabetes in dogs mean?

The complex situation of diabetes is, caused due to an imbalance in the production or absorption of the hormone insulin in the body.  The sickness or onset of illness happens either because there is insufficient insulin in the dog’s body or due to the dog’s abnormal response to insulin.

What is diabetes

For a healthy digestion to occur in a dog, the food should be broken down into the tiniest levels of that of the glucose, which then is absorbed by the cells with the help of adequate secretion of insulin in the dog’s body.  When the pancreas do not produce sufficient insulin required for digestion, the level of blood sugar in the dog’s blood increases. The subsequent medical condition is hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar in the body. This is diabetes mellitus in a dog.

Types of diabetes in dogs

Diabetes Mellitus is a diseases condition where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin for the body’s needs. There are varieties of diabetes in dogs that is similar to the diabetes in human diagnosis of the same, the Type I and the Type II diabetes.

  1. Type I diabetes: lack of insulin generated by pancreas. Juvenile diabetes is often, described as triggered by the destruction of these beta cells of the pancreas. In this condition, insulin should be, given externally to suffice for the body’s needs.  This insulin dependency is the most common variety of diabetes in dogs.
  2. Type II diabetes: abnormal or underrated response to insulin. This condition is generally not seen in dogs as it involves permanent destruction of the hormone secreting gland.

Chance of survival of a dog with Type I diabetes over the decades of observation is 50%. Common types of diabetes in dogs are, diagnosed as insulin deficiency or insulin resistance.  Recent research and studies suggest various causes of the source of illness but many points to lifestyle, dietary and genetic history of the dog as the main cause.

Some dogs that are prone to risk owing to their genetic make-up are as follows:

Low RiskNeutral RiskModerate RiskHigh Risk
German ShepherdRottweilerBichon FriseCaien Terrier
Golden RetrieverMixed BreedBorder Terrier
Staffordshire Bull terrierJack Russell TerrierSchanuzer
BoxerCocker SpanielPoodle
Welsh Springer SpanielCavalier King Charles SpanielEnglish Setter
English Springer SpanielWest highland TerrierYorkshire Terrier

In addition, female dogs are more vulnerable than male dogs to diabetes, with a risk of developing the disease in their latter half (6-9) years of age. Juvenile diabetes is also, found to be quite common in Keeshonds and Golden retrievers. As the disease is common in older or middle-aged dogs, it has a high chance of being, neglected as well.

Symptoms of diabetes in dogs infographic

The treatment and diagnosis options for dog diabetes are, affordable, accessible and feasible. Most of the case studies report that canines that have undergone treatment for the same have a good history of being capable of coping with the reality.

Symptoms of diabetes mellitus in dogs

  1. Increased bowel movements
    Increased urination is another typical habit of a diabetic dog. The first thing that occurs after the elevated blood sugar levels in the body is the dog’s bodily way of expending it out with the help of urine generation. This might also cause cases of misbehavior or potty accidents in the house.
  2. Increased feeling of being thirsty
    Increased urine production in the pet’s body is in direct relation with the increase in drinking water. Your dog will empty his water bowl frequently and quickly, in the same condition. The above symptom and the current symptom combined are the pivotal signs to looks out for, if you suspect diabetes n your dog. This can also be a cause to point towards other medical problems your pet has. Hence, if you notice any of these as seemingly abnormal, meet with your veterinarian fast.
  3. Appetite surges
    First and the foremost symptom one notices about the presence of diabetes in the dog is the incessant amount of enthusiasm to eat. Dogs are generally very hungry and enthusiastic about food, although a diabetic dog will be extra-ordinarily hungry. The increased appetite condition of the dog is due to the insufficient production, transmission or absorption of amino acids necessary for the cells.  In such conditions, take care to checklist the other symptoms and take your dog to a veterinarian immediately.
  4. Lethargy
    The lack of energy or being weary might be another sign of concluding diabetes mellitus in your dog. As blood sugar gradually tends to deplete in your body, the energy lacks in providing for playing, running or being active. Increased sleep is another result of a diabetic dog, which is lethargic, perpetually.
  5. Loss of weight
    Weight loss is another cause and effect of diabetes in dogs.  As the blood sugar levels continue to cause imbalance in the bodily mechanisms, the dog eats more, although the energy derived from the food is improperly or abnormally, expended by the body. Hence, it does not reach cells to provide energy even though the calorie intake is regular or increased.
  6. Urinary tract infections
    Urinary tract infections develop because of the prime problem of having more sugar in your urine. With increased quantity of sugar in the body, there is a high tendency for bacteria to grow in your pet’s urinary tract.  This secondary type of urinary tract infections that the canines and felines contact is common as well as sign of diabetes in your pet.
  7. Kidney failure
    One of the most common secondary symptom of diabetes in pets is kidney failure. With drastically fluctuating levels of blood sugar in the body leads to renal insufficiency. This is, caused by the spillage of the sugar through the urine, which tends more damage to the kidneys. Polyuria or excess urination can be the cause of the kidney failure.  Kidneys normally become, stressed out and weak by the burden of excess sugar, which can be analysed and concluded by urinalysis.
  8. Cataracts
    Cloudy eyes or vision problems are an adjacent development to the cataract in dogs. Diabetic cataracts cause subsequent blindness in the canine or feline.Some other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, dehydration and skin infections. If you notice an aggravated nature of symptoms aforementioned n your dog, immediately seek the consultancy of a veterinarian!

Cause of diabetes mellitus in dogs

The precise nature of the cause is unknown; although, certain known causes that add up to the levels of causing diabetes are:

  1. Chronic Pancreatitis
  2. Obesity
  3. Medications
  4. Abnormal protein deposits
  5. Auto-immune disorders
  6. Genetic history

While the most common diabetes mellitus in canines is with the onset of destruction of beta cells. Dietary factors and lifestyle add to the larges cause of diabetes in dogs.

Diagnosis of diabetes in dogs

Testing is usually, done by pricking with a lancelet a hairless area on the body of your dog to collect the blood that wells up from the prick.  The glucose meter is, used to measure the levels of glucose in the blood.  Always keep a journal of your dog’s food, quantity, type, hours and bowel movements.

The most common method of testing diabetes in dogs is through the analysis of the measure of glucose in your dog’s blood. Although a higher glucose, level in the blood is not the sole measure of predicting diabetes in dogs and can be a pointer to other diseases as well.  Early diagnosis is the best way to counter and attack diabetes in dogs.

As dogs are, known to be insulin dependent, the oral medication of the drug is not possible. The therapy apt for dogs is the insulin replacement therapy.  The therapy is ordinarily continued for life and has external insulin given to the dogs.  The therapy processes with steps of gradually dosing the dog to external insulin.

Another method of diagnosing diabetes in your pet is by determining the level of fructosamine and glycosolated haemoglobin (GHb). These tests are susceptible to the levels of stress or anxiety in the dog. The former test confirms diabetes for a consistent 2-4 weeks while the latter confirms it to 4 months period.

Test strips for dogs

Another method of determine diabetes in dogs is through analysing the measure of ketones in the blood. When the liver and kidneys produce energy, ketones are broken downs as fatty acids. These are water-soluble compounds. By measuring the level of ketones, one can determine diabetes mellitus. Although, high doses of ketone in the body is a pointer towards other malfunction in your body. Ketostix is available over the counter to measure ketones in urine.

Treatment of diabetes in dogs

All treatment options for diabetes mellitus is to control the blood sugar levels and never to accelerate or heighten them, as there is no permanent cure to diabetes.  Overtime in controlling the levels, the canines might contact many irreparable illnesses like cataracts, Kidney failure, nerve failure, and arteries failure and retina disease.  Apart from these, as dogs have higher levels of sugar in the body, the bacteria start to live on the body like, gums, urinary tract and skin.

  1. Insulin therapy
    There are many types of insulin found in the market currently. Only a proper veterinarian can analyse and determine the right insulin for your dog’s condition. With insulin therapy, the dog just needs two shots after his meals, with a thin-needled syringe, just under his skin.  All types of insulin vary in their workings, they can be at peak, and they can be elevated or allergic. There are insulin shots derived from pig as well as viable-for-human-use- insulin, hence be sure to consult your veterinarian before prescribing any insulin to your dog.
    • Regular Crystalline insulin
    • Intermediate acting insulin
    • Ultralente Insulin
  2. Diet
    A high fat diet is often encouraged for the treatment of high blood sugar levels. Diet holds a vital role in treating and preventing erratic blood sugar levels by making the dog eat. Mostly, there is no exclusive diet for dogs with diabetes but dogs should be, properly fed to battle the imbalance in the level of hormones in the body as well as to combat weight and appetite-loss.
    Ideally, feed your dog plenty of carbohydrates twice a day with a 12-hour gap in between the meals. Certain dogs have sensitive stomachs and one should consult the veterinarian about having the right dose of fibre and carbohydrate in the food.
    The protein component of the diet should be, regulated based on the dog’s weight and cholesterol levels.  As carbohydrates are, digested much faster than all other kinds of food, it can relieve the dog of the tummy troubles. In case of fibre, too much of the soluble fibre causes flatulence and diarrhoea.  Make sure you keep your dog hydrated whenever adding changes to his diet or excessive fibre.
  3. Exercise
    Another supremely important treatment option of diabetes is with ample exercise. Like humans, dog needs sufficient exercise to combat the blood sugar levels. Exercise although can reduce the complication of high sugar levels but can also cause hypoglycaemia. Avoiding all strenuous exercise, dogs should have a consistent feeding and exercise schedule that correlates with the insulin dosage.
  4. Treats and supplements
    Apart from the regular meals, your dog should be, conditioned to feel that the insulin shots are good for him. Make sure you administer varieties of treats in reward of the shots that you give. When giving treats to your dog, avoid any variety that harms or imbalances your dog’s medical condition.

Prevention of diabetes in dogs

All diabetic patients need proper aftercare and medication to keep their blood sugar levels at the optimum level.

  1. Always give insulin shots to your dog at the right time
  2. Feed your dog regularly
  3. Always feed your dog the right and enriched diet
  4. Exercise regularly with your dog
  5. Have a regular schedule for check-ups of the blood-sugar levels in your dog
  6. Always consult your veterinarian if you suspect anything abnormal

As there is no permanent cure for diabetes, one must take care to provide the right care for the diabetic dog. Have a long talk with our veterinarian understanding what your dog is experiencing in the same time.

If diabetes is, ignored it can root to become many more serious diseases in the dog.

Dehydrated dog

Many complications can happen when treating your dog with diabetes. Some of them are:

  1. Ketoacidosis:
    The sudden increase of ketones in blood might indicate fatal conditions and need immediate medical attention. As aforementioned, there are many methods to test ketones like ketostix. Always known what is happening with your dog through his treatment and recovery phase.
  2. Dehydration:
    Another prominent and important aspect of the recovery phase of diabetic dogs is dehydration. There is a heavy body-fluid-loss in the dog, which consists of urination, vomiting, perspiration and stress. Check your pet’s gums and skin to measure the level of dehydration in his body. Always keep the water bowl filled and conveniently accessible to your dog.
  3. Hypoglycemia:
    When the insulin requirement of your dogs change without notice, this medical condition of is, observed. Some of the causes of hypoglycaemia are strenuous exercise, illness, lethargy or medical conflicts.  This is a very dangerous condition where the dog needs immediate care.

The recovery phase of your dog will be a very important, crucial and strenuous stage for both your dog as well as you. Make sure you know everything that your dog is going through, in order to help him regain his energy and health.


Your veterinarian determines the right quantity of fat, fibre and carbohydrate required for your dog during the phase.  It is important to be consistent and honest to the journal that you keep an account of all your dog’s activities. This helps to determine a measure of his growth and recovery through the treatment. Make sure you have a consistent way of monitoring the blood sugar levels in your dog’s blood, right at home. The insulin injections are another pivotal responsibility of the recovery stage. Make sure you administer the injections at the right time and in the right dosage to your dog.

Insulin shots

Apart from the medical responsibilities, it is your duty to take care of your pet by spending more time with him, exercising regularly with him, laughing and running with him. A dog needs the care and love of the master, to keep him positive and healthy through the stage of healing. Hence, take care of yourself and your lovely pet and never forget your veterinarian appointments!

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.