Diagnosing and Treating Dog Diabetes

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Identifying and caring for a dog with diabetes is important to keep them happy and healthy.

According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2016 State of Pet Health Report, 1 diabetes in dogs increased nearly 80 percent from 2006 to 2015—rising from 13.1 cases per 10,000 dogs to 23.6 cases per 10,000 dogs. Although diabetes can develop at any age, it’s more common in middle-aged to older dogs. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for canine diabetes, but there is good news—dogs with the condition can live fairly normal lives if the disease is diagnosed early and they receive daily treatment to control the disease. In this article, we’ll discuss dog diabetes, outlining the symptoms associated with it and the treatment given.

Understanding Dog Diabetes

Dogs can suffer from two forms of diabetes: insulin-deficiency diabetes and insulin-resistance diabetes. The former of these is Type I—also known as diabetes mellitus—and it’s the form dogs are typically inflicted with. It occurs when a dog’s pancreas is unable to produce an adequate amount of insulin. This makes the cells in a dog’s body unable to absorb glucose (also known as blood sugar), thus starving the animal of energy and damaging organs. Mixed-breed dogs are more prone to the disease than purebreds. In terms of gender, female dogs and neutered male dogs are more susceptible.

Diagnosing Dog Diabetes

In order to find out if your dog has diabetes, your veterinarian will test him to see if glucose and ketones are in his urine. If both are, the next step will be to measure your dog’s blood glucose concentration. A positive diagnosis for diabetes will only occur after glucose is found in the urine as well as at a high level in the blood. The most common difficulties in diabetic dogs are cataracts (a clouding of the lens of the eye), atherosclerosis (a hardening of the arteries), kidney disease, retina disease, or nerve disease.

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If your dog’s blood glucose levels rise above the recommended normal level (above 200 mg/dl), hyperglycemia can occur. This can lead to ketoacidosis, which is a crisis condition in dogs. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include excessive intake of water, frequent urination, decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, or even coma.2

Dog Diabetes Symptoms

Many dog owners will notice symptoms of the disease before bringing their pup to a veterinarian. They include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss

Dogs with prolonged inflammation of the small bowel, Cushing’s disease, or an extended use of progesterone drugs or steroid drugs are at increased risk for diabetes. Excessive weight can also increase the chances of a dog developing diabetes, as obesity causes cells to be more resistant to insulin.

Treating Dog Diabetes

After your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, a serial blood glucose–concentration curve will be attained by measuring his glucose level repeatedly over several hours. The results will dictate appropriate insulin, dose, and dosing schedule. Most dogs with diabetes mellitus need two insulin injections daily. Insulin injections, which are given just under the skin with a very tiny needle, won’t be painful to your pup. Although a diabetic dog can go a day or so without insulin without great harm, it should not become a regular occurrence.

Diets and Exercise for Dogs with Diabetes

In addition to daily insulin injections, your veterinarian may recommend that your dog eat a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber. Fiber slows glucose entering the blood, causing your dog to eat less. Dog foods specially made for diabetic dogs are available. Consistency in feeding your dog is a crucial component in managing this disease. Feed your dog the same food in the same amount at the same time every day.

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Exercise can also play a role in managing your dog’s diabetes by lowering his blood glucose levels. As with food, exercise should be done consistently for the same amount of time each day with the same exertion level. Overdoing exercise can cause your dog’s blood glucose levels to drop dangerously low.

Affording Canine Diabetes

Caring for a diabetic dog requires a financial and personal commitment. You should weigh your dog regularly and keep an eye on his hunger, thirst, and urination, which in excess can indicate high glucose levels. After your dog is set in a routine to treat diabetes, the treatment and maintenance costs are reasonable, but the process of determining the disease and any complications that arise can be costly. It is also necessary to work with your veterinarian to continually monitor your dog’s progress to ensure that he is being optimally cared for.

Like all ailments that occur in animals, early detection and proper veterinarian care lead to the best possible outcome. One thing that will easily allow you to give your dog the best possible care is pet insurance. Knowing that up to 90% of your pet’s unexpected veterinary costs are covered takes a load off of your mind and enables you to focus solely on the well-being of your canine family member.


1 Banfield Pet Hospital. (2016). State of Pet Health 2016 Report. Retrieved from https://www.banfield.com/Banfield/media/PDF/Downloads/soph/Banfield-State-of-Pet-Health-Report-2016.pdf

2 Roberts, S. S. (2020, May). Preventing and Treating Canine Diabetes. Retrieved from https://thebark.com/content/preventing-and-treating-canine-diabetes

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