Diabetes in dogs

Diabetes in dogs

Health & Safety

Around one in every five hundred dogs will develop diabetes over the course of their lives, and so it is worth learning a little bit about the condition and its symptoms, causes and treatments so that you can be aware of potential risk factors in your dog and act quickly if a problem develops. Read on to find out more.

What is diabetes?

In healthy dogs, the food which they eat is broken down into elements which fuel the body. The breakdown of carbohydrates produces glucose, which is absorbed by the intestine and then used to provide the energy that the dog needs to live. The absorption and conversion of glucose is regulated by a hormone called insulin, which is produced naturally by the pancreas, a gland located near to the intestine.A dog whose pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin or where the cells within their blood do not respond adequately to the insulin produced, causes the illness called diabetes mellitus, or 'sugar diabetes.' This leads to the cells being unable to absorb the necessary amount of glucose needed for healthy functionality, and causes excessively high levels of glucose in the blood.

What dogs can get diabetes?

While any breed or type of dog can develop diabetes, some breeds are considered to be more susceptible to it than others. The Samoyed and the Cairn terrier are considered to be two 'high risk' breeds, with various other popular breeds including the Bichon Frise, Poodle and Yorkshire terrier falling under the 'moderate risk' category.While genetic and hereditary traits are the leading cause of diabetes in dogs, illnesses and diseases such as Cushing's disease and some conditions which affect the pancreas may lead to its development as well. The use of steroids over prolonged periods of time can also affect insulin production and lead to diabetes.Diabetes in dogs can develop at any age from around eighteen months onwards, but it is most usually diagnosed after the age of seven. Bitches have a higher occurrence rate of diabetes than dogs, with around 70% of all diagnosed cases being found in female dogs.

What are the symptoms of diabetes in dogs?

There are four main indicators of the onset of diabetes mellitus in dogs, which should be taken seriously and definitively diagnosed by your veterinary surgeon, as diabetes is a serious medical condition. Left untreated, diabetes can cause a rapid decline in the health of your dog and even lead to death. The signs to watch out for are:1. Drinking a lot of waterDiabetes often causes dogs to drink excessive amounts of water as a side effect of dealing with too much glucose in the body, or the glucose not being correctly transformed into energy. Along with excessive urination, excessive water drinking is one of the key indicators of the development of diabetes in your pet.2. Excessive urinationDrinking abnormal amounts of water will naturally lead to your dog needing to relieve itself more often, and so if you notice your dog drinking a lot and urinating a lot, it's time to see the vet.3. Unexplained weight lossYour dog may begin to lose weight and condition even if he is eating normally as part of the onset of diabetes mellitus. This is due to him being unable to metabolise the glucose in his food properly, which he needs to fuel the cells of his body and provide energy.4. Lethargy and listlessnessLethargy, listlessness and seeming generally under the weather can be indicative of any number of health issues, and may not, on its own, indicate diabetes. However, listlessness and loss of condition are sure signs that something is amiss with a previously healthy dog, and so you should arrange a consultation with your vet for further investigation.

Diagnosing diabetes in dogs

If you suspect your dog may be developing diabetes, a simple urine test and blood sampling performed by your vet can provide you with a quick and definitive diagnosis. If Diabetes is confirmed, generally treatment will be started right away.

Treating and managing diabetes

There is no cure for diabetes, but it can generally be successfully managed in dogs much as it can in people, and plenty of diabetic dogs go on to lead long, otherwise healthy lives. Treating and managing diabetes involves minimising the side effects and complications of the condition, and reducing the symptoms. Your dog may need to go on a special diet which helps to support the changing needs of reduced insulin production or absorption, provides essential nutrients, and helps to maintain a healthy weight.Keeping the weight and energy levels of a dog with diabetes within a safe range is very important, and so your vet will work with you to draw up a feeding and exercise regime to support your dog's ongoing treatment and optimum health.Most dogs with diabetes mellitus require regular insulin administration via injection. Your vet will need to spend some time testing your dog's blood sugar and insulin levels and arriving upon the correct dosage and frequency of administration. Once your vet is happy that they have reached the correct dosage schedule, they will teach you how to administer the injections at home and how to handle and store the insulin you will need. You will need to see the vet regularly for the duration of your dog's life in order to monitor the development and management of the condition, and make any changes as necessary.


As you can probably surmise, the diagnosis and ongoing treatment of a dog with diabetes can soon become expensive. You will not be able to insure your dog for the treatment of diabetes after a diagnosis has been reached or the disease is suspected, so insuring your dog pre-emptively before diabetes or any other health condition may present itself can make a big difference to your ability to care for your dog and fund his ongoing treatment. Talk to your veterinary surgeon about the different types of pet insurance available, and make sure that any policy you choose will cover the cost of treatment for the duration of your dog's life, and not only for a set period of time or the initial treatment.

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