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What Is Diabetes In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Types, and Treatment



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Diabetes in dogs is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition caused by an imbalance of glucose (sugar) levels within the body.

Signs such as excessive thirst or urination, weight loss, and lethargy are all signs that your pup could have diabetes.

To detect it early and effectively manage their health, we’ll explore its symptoms, causes, types, and treatment in this blog post; hopefully giving you better insight into this condition and how best to care for it.

What Is Diabetes In Dogs?

What Is Diabetes In Dogs Symptoms, Causes, Types, and Treatment

Diabetes in dogs is a chronic disorder caused by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin. When there isn’t enough insulin present, glucose accumulates in the bloodstream and cannot be utilized as energy.

Diabetes occurs when your dog’s blood sugar levels become uncontrollable. Once they eat something, that sugar enters their bloodstream and causes sickness.

These sugars don’t do any good if they sit around in the bloodstream, so insulin is produced to transport them into muscle cells and brain cells. Sugar provides energy for cells while providing fuel.

Once a dog with diabetes has eaten, sugar enters its bloodstream as normal; however, due to its inability to produce insulin for proper cell division, this sugar remains stagnant within its tissues. As such, they lack energy-giving cells around their body.

Diabetes can present with various symptoms such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, increased hunger, and fatigue.

Untreated diabetes causes cells throughout the body to starve, leading to serious illness and even death. In the short term, diabetes causes thirst and hunger which could escalate into dehydration, collapse, or a diabetic coma which could prove fatal.

Diabetic dogs can lead a normal and fulfilling life with proper management; however, without treatment and monitoring, they may begin to experience serious effects on their heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and blood vessels.

With proper management and monitoring, however, diabetic canines often live a normal and content life with just some additional restrictions on activities.

Types of Diabetes in Dogs

There are two types of diabetes in dogs: insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). The difference between the two types of diabetes in dogs is that IDDM requires regular administration of insulin injections to regulate blood sugar levels while NIDDM can be managed with oral medication, a balanced diet, and regular exercise.

The insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is the most common form of canine diabetes and usually affects young to middle-aged dogs that are usually under 5 years of age.

Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM)

Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) is a common endocrine disorder in dogs that develops when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, leading to hyperglycemia – high blood sugar.

Signs of IDDM include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased thirst/urination frequency
  • Lethargy
  • Appetite changes

Without proper treatment and management with diet and medication, however, pets with this condition could succumb.

Although no specific cause for IDDM in dogs exists, certain breeds such as Toy Poodles, Cairn Terriers, Dachshunds, and Miniature Schnauzers may be more predisposed than others.

Other factors that could contribute to its development include obesity, genetics, and poor nutrition. To diagnose IDDM in a dog, your veterinarian will conduct a physical exam along with blood work to measure glucose levels.

Treatment for IDDM typically entails daily insulin injections and careful dietary monitoring. A veterinary nutritionist can assist you in creating a balanced meal plan tailored to your pet’s individual needs, which works together with the treatment plan.

Exercise is also essential in managing IDDM in dogs; regular walks or moderate playtime depending on their health status are recommended depending on their condition. With proper management, affected pets can live healthy lives despite their condition.

Diabetic pets must receive proper diagnosis and care from their veterinarian so that they can lead happy, healthy life with proper management. With proper guidance, diabetic pets can lead happy lives full of adventure!

Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM)

Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) is a form of diabetes that affects dogs. Also known as type 2 diabetes, NIDDM tends to be less severe than its insulin-dependent counterpart and usually requires fewer interventions.

NIDDM occurs when the pancreas still produces some insulin but the body fails to efficiently utilize it due to high circulating fat levels or obesity in the animal; over time these conditions may cause damage to other organs such as kidneys, eyes, and heart.

NIDDM presents with:

  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Weight loss despite increased appetite
  • Lethargy

Treatment includes dietary modification with higher fiber, lower fat, and fewer simple carbohydrates; regular exercise; sometimes oral medications or insulin injections to improve the body’s response to glucose.

The aim is to maintain normal blood glucose levels as well as general good health in animals.

Pet parents of dogs with NIDDM must carefully monitor their pet’s diet, exercise regime, and overall health to guarantee they receive the best care. With proper management, a dog with NIDDM can still lead a happy and healthy life.

(Related: How To Monitor Your Dog’s Blood Sugar [The Proper Way])

Symptoms of Diabetes In Dogs

Symptoms of diabetes in dogs include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Sweet-smelling breath
  • Dehydration
  • Itchy skin
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it is important to take them to a veterinarian for an examination.

Causes of Diabetes In Dogs

You might be curious why your dog has developed diabetes and if there’s anything you could have done differently. Unfortunately, most dogs simply develop diabetes without any identifiable cause. However, there are certain factors that may increase their likelihood of developing the condition.

  • Obesity
  • Gender (female)
  • Dogs that haven’t been neutered
  • Dogs over five years of age
  • Dogs with pancreatitis


Obese dogs are particularly vulnerable to developing diabetes due to excess body fat, as this can increase insulin resistance and impair glucose utilization by the body.

Excess weight also puts additional strain on organs like the pancreas – which produces insulin – leading to decreased functionality over time and eventual diabetes.

Furthermore, obese dogs usually have decreased physical activity levels which further contributes to this increased risk.


Female dogs are particularly prone to diabetes due to their hormones. Female dogs go through different hormonal cycles throughout their adult lives, which can affect their glucose levels and put them at greater risk for developing the disorder.

Furthermore, female dogs tend to gain weight more easily than male dogs due to having slower metabolisms compared to males; without proper nutrition and exercise, they could easily put on extra pounds.


Dogs that have not been neutered may be more vulnerable to developing diabetes because they do not receive the protective benefits of hormones released when they are neutered.

This could lead to an increase in blood sugar levels, one risk factor for diabetes.

Furthermore, un-neutered dogs tend to gain more weight than those who have undergone spaying or neutering; this extra weight increases their likelihood of insulin resistance.


Dogs over five years of age are more prone to diabetes due to several factors. Firstly, as dogs age their metabolic rate tends to slow down, making it harder for the body to regulate blood sugar levels.

Furthermore, older dogs may have altered responses to insulin due to changes in pancreatic function that occur with age.


Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, a gland that produces hormones and enzymes to aid in digestion. When this gland becomes inflamed, it cannot produce enough of these essential hormones and enzymes for proper absorption of essential nutrients – thus increasing diabetes risks in dogs with pancreatitis.

Furthermore, pancreatitis may cause permanent damage to insulin-producing cells which further increases diabetes risks; additionally, certain medications used to treat pancreatitis may actually raise these chances due to their effects on glucose regulation within the body.

(Related: How To Properly Treat Your Diabetic Dog (Insulin Injection, Diet, and Exercise Tips))

Complications of Diabetes in Dogs

Complications that even dogs with well-managed diabetes tend to encounter include:

  • Urine infections
  • Skin infections
  • Cataracts in the eyes.

Cataracts can develop quickly in dogs, even if their blood sugars are under control. That is why it’s essential to have your pup’s urine and eyes regularly assessed by a veterinarian.

Treatment Options For Diabetic Dogs

Diabetic dogs require ongoing medication for the rest of their lives; treating a diabetic dog requires an immense commitment, but with proper management, most will live just as long as those without it.

Treatment for diabetes involves three main things: insulin injections, a strict diet, and strict exercise control.

Consistency is key when it comes to taking insulin injections, eating meals, and exercising – typically twice daily. By keeping things consistent throughout the day, we can ensure we achieve optimal control.

Insulin Injections

Insulin injections are a commonly used treatment for diabetic dogs. This involves administering an artificial hormone into the canine’s system in order to lower its blood glucose levels.

Depending on the type of insulin your veterinarian prescribes, your dog may need to receive this medication up to twice daily at 12-hour intervals.

It is essential that you follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding how much insulin should be given and when, as an incorrect dose can have severe repercussions.

Additionally, if your dog’s blood glucose levels remain too high or low despite receiving the correct insulin dose, make sure to contact your veterinarian right away as this could indicate that a change in dosage or other medical issue needs to be addressed.

It can also be beneficial to regularly monitor your dog’s glucose levels with a glucometer. This will enable both of you to determine if their treatment plan is successful or needs adjustment.

Strict Diet

Diet is an integral part of treating diabetes in dogs. So, it’s essential to follow strict dietary guidelines when introducing your diabetic pup into your household.

Feed small meals throughout the day and only give table scraps or treats after consulting a veterinarian, high-quality food that’s low in carbohydrates, proteins, and fat with added fiber to slow glucose absorption from intestines.

High-quality formulas like Hill’s Prescription Diet or Purina Veterinary Diet’s DM Diabetes Management dog food should also be fed to ensure optimal results.

Mandatory Exercise

Exercising is an integral part of managing diabetes in dogs. Exercise helps regulate their glucose levels, improves their mood, and keeps their weight at a healthy level.

When including exercise in your pup’s treatment plan for diabetes, make sure it’s done safely and regularly.

For your pup’s health and safety, it’s best to gradually increase their activity level. Start with shorter walks or playtime sessions, gradually increasing in duration as your dog becomes accustomed to regular physical exertion.

Be sure to monitor their blood sugar levels throughout any activity period as sudden spikes can cause dangerous drops in glucose.

Depending on how severe your dog’s diabetes is, you may also need to bring along easily digestible carbohydrate sources like banana slices or honey packets with you when going for longer outings in order to provide fast-acting energy sources like banana slices or honey packets.

How Often Does a Diabetic Dog Need To Visit The Vet?

At first, your pup will require regular vet checks. Your veterinarian can assess them as often as necessary until you’re confident managing their diabetes at home, at which point regular monitoring will continue for life. Checkups could occur every few months once their condition has been stabilized and you feel confident giving insulin injections.

Diabetic dogs require a lot of dedication. Your pup will require an intense routine, regular vet visits, lifelong medication, and some major lifestyle modifications to accommodate its condition.

There’s no getting around it: having a diabetic dog is no small undertaking! Fortunately, diabetic dogs can lead a normal and contented life with proper care. If you’re worried about how to care for them properly, don’t fret – your vet practice will offer plenty of assistance and support.

Some owners may not feel ready or able to commit to owning a diabetic dog due to financial or lifestyle reasons. It’s essential that you speak openly and honestly with your vet about all of your finances, lifestyle, and how well-equipped you feel with managing the conditions.

Your vet can then explore all available options with both of you in mind.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, you may feel overwhelmed by your pet’s diabetes diagnosis. That is completely normal and should never be ignored.

Discuss any concerns with both your veterinarian and vet nurse honestly and openly. While diabetes cannot be cured, it can be managed successfully through proper lifestyle changes and medication administration.

Owning a diabetic dog requires an enormous commitment, but with proper management, they can lead a long and happy life.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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