Ten common symptoms of diabetes in dogs

Ten common symptoms of diabetes in dogs

Health & Safety

Diabetes in dogs is a chronic health condition that if left untreated, can prove fatal, as well as significantly affecting your dog’s wellness and quality of life in the interim. Whilst diabetes in dogs cannot be reversed or cured, it can be managed on an ongoing basis once diagnosed by means of dietary and lifestyle changes, or a combination of diet and lifestyle changes with the supplemental administration of insulin.

Dogs with properly controlled diabetes can lead full and otherwise healthy lives providing that their owners make the necessary changes to the dog’s lifestyle and keep a close eye on the condition and the dog’s insulin levels and requirements, but left untreated, diabetes can prove fatal.

Diabetes that is poorly controlled or not treated can also lead to a range of other serious and potentially life-threatening conditions developing as a secondary complication of the condition – and so if your dog is diabetic, recognising this, getting them diagnosed and beginning treatment promptly is vital.

In this article, we will share a list of the ten common symptoms of diabetes (or poorly controlled diabetes in previously diagnosed dogs) that all dog owners should be aware of, and which can help you to recognise a problem and seek treatment as soon as possible. Read on to learn more.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes in dogs comes in two variants, known as type 1 and type 2 respectively. Dogs with type 1 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin in the pancreas to regulate and balance the body’s glucose levels, and so, require supplemental insulin to be injected to correct this. They may also be fed a special diet designed to support good health, and need to undergo lifestyle changes to help to keep them healthy.

Type 2 diabetes is more likely to occur in older dogs, and this type of diabetes presents when the body produces insulin, but cannot use it properly. This type of diabetes may also require insulin injections, but in some cases, can be managed by means of diet and lifestyle changes alone.

Next, we will look at the ten common symptoms of diabetes in dogs – both dogs who may be developing diabetes but have yet to be diagnosed, and dogs with an existing diagnosis of diabetes whose condition is not properly controlled.

Increased thirst

Dogs that have untreated diabetes or whose diabetes is poorly controlled will often have a virtually insatiable thirst, and so drinking more than normal or seeming to be perpetually thirsty may be your first indication that something is amiss.

Increased need to urinate

As you might expect from a dog that is drinking much more water than normal, they will also need to pee more frequently, so if your dog is always asking to go out to the toilet and does pass water every time they go out, this can also indicate diabetes.

Inappropriate toileting

Because of the amount of water the dog drinks and their associated need to go to the toilet frequently, this can lead to inappropriate urination, such as your dog toileting in the house or appearing to suffer from incontinence. Diabetes does not cause incontinence, but peeing in the house due to not being able to go outside may often be confused with incontinence in dogs.

Insatiable hunger

Dogs rarely refuse food, and often go to great lengths to eat things that they shouldn’t do, so it can be very hard to tell if your dog is actually hungrier than normal, or eating more than they should. Diabetes in dogs commonly causes the dog to have a virtually insatiable hunger, causing them to beg, scavenge and generally become more opportunistic about food than normal.

Weight loss

Dogs with diabetes have problems gaining and maintaining a healthy weight, and even if your dog is eating much more than normal, they may lose weight as part of their condition. If your dog is eating a lot or if you have increased the sizes of their meals and they continue to lose weight, this may be indicative of diabetes.

Loss of condition

Diabetes is a systemic condition that has an affect on the whole body, and until the condition is brought under control, can cause your dog to lose condition as well as weight.

A poorly controlled diabetic dog’s coat is likely to be dull and dry, and they may suffer from dandruff, and have a rather patchy or moth-eaten-looking coat, as well as generally looking unkempt and rather neglected, even if they are actually very well cared for.

Loss of interest in exercise

Diabetes can cause your dog to become lethargic and intolerant of exercise, and generally lead to them losing interest in playing, walking and doing the things that they usually enjoy.

Hind limb weakness

Untreated or poorly controlled diabetes in dogs can also cause a secondary complication called diabetic neuropathy, which causes weakness in the muscles of the hind limbs. This may manifest as your dog appearing shaky on their legs, or not being able to run and jump normally.

Sweet smelling urine

Untreated or poorly controlled diabetes means that your dog will not be able to get the full nutritional value that they should from their food, and so the body metabolises its own fat stores instead, as the condition can trick the body into thinking it is not being fed, and so, send it into starvation mode.

When your dog’s body metabolises its own fat stores, this leads to the development of a stage called ketosis, which can cause your dog’s urine to smell very distinctive, and often sweet.

Sweet smelling breath

Ketosis can also cause sweet or unusual smelling breath in your dog, which many owners describe as having a vaguely sweet yet rotten smell like fermenting or decaying fruit.

Most dogs with undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes will display all or many of these symptoms – and so learning to recognise them and seek veterinary treatment promptly is important in order to get your dog’s condition under control and return them to health.



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