What You Should Know About Canine Diabetes

dachshund at the vet

It’s never a fun time when your dog is not feeling well. Oftentimes, you have to identify your dog’s symptoms and then try to guess what might be going on. After all, your dog can’t tell you what they’re feeling or why – it’s up to you and your vet to figure out. Just as diabetes occurs in humans, it can also occur in dogs. And, it is becoming a more common problem. Here’s what you should know about canine diabetes:

What is Canine Diabetes?

Canine diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, is an insulin deficiency disorder. Much like in humans, a dog with diabetes cannot properly process or metabolize sugar. This results in high levels of glucose in the blood and low levels of glucose in the cells, which causes a lot of problems. Similar to humans, dogs can also be diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes in Dogs

Type 1 Diabetes is considered juvenile-onset diabetes or congenital diabetes. In many cases, Type 1 Diabetes in dogs can be managed with diet and exercise. Some cases may also require insulin therapy, but this is not always the case.

Type 2 Diabetes in Dogs

With Type 2 Diabetes, which is an acquired disease, the dog requires insulin because the dog’s pancreas cannot secrete the proper levels of insulin needed to regulate sugar intake. This is why it is also sometimes called insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Type 2 usually occurs in older dogs and, usually, onset occurs when dogs are 7-9 years old. It is also more common in overweight dogs and large and giant dog breeds.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs?

Your vet will use a blood test to determine if your dog is diabetic, but knowing the signs and symptoms to look for can help you get your dog the help they need faster. As with many other health conditions in dogs, several of the symptoms overlap, but any of the following symptoms are a cause for concern and warrant a trip to the vet.

Changes in Food and Water Intake

Dogs with canine diabetes or that are developing canine diabetes will show changes in their food and water intake. They may start drinking and eating more often due to feeling excessive thirst or hunger. They may also start eating less due to a loss of appetite and may show signs of dehydration despite increased water intake.

Behavioral Changes

Your dog will also likely show some behavioral changes like excessive urination, which can contribute to dehydration, and difficulty sleeping. It may also be a sign of a urinary tract infection. A dog with canine diabetes may also experience rapid breathing, lethargy, and show signs of depression.

Physical Changes

In addition to other symptoms, your dog may show physical symptoms or their body may undergo physical changes in response to diabetes. Abdominal pain, a change in the way their breath smells, vomiting, weight loss, cataracts, and more can all be symptoms of canine diabetes.

Another issue is Ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening condition where insufficient insulin causes too many ketones in the blood and urine. You may not be able to see this symptom without the help of a vet and some tests, but it’s important to know what it is and that it can be related to canine diabetes in case it comes up.

How do You Treat Canine Diabetes?

The treatment of canine diabetes depends on the type your dog has and how severe it is. But, there are some things you and your vet can do to help your dog manage the condition.


Because overweight dogs are at a higher risk of diabetes, exercise before a dog develops diabetes can help in preventing it in the first place as dogs at their proper body weight tend to be less likely to develop it. It’s also important in treating diabetes in dogs as well. Dogs who have diabetes that are able to reach their ideal body weight tend to stabilize.

Dogs that are obese can develop insulin resistance, which can make insulin therapy for treating their diabetes more difficult and less effective. So, exercise can help make treatment more effective for these dogs as they lose weight. This is especially important for Type 2 Diabetes because it generally requires insulin treatments in order to manage it appropriately.


Diet is also important to managing a dog with diabetes and a dog that is at-risk for it. Digestion releases glucose into the bloodstream, so a meal that consists of a lot of sugar will trigger a sudden rush of glucose into the blood. Dogs with Type 2 Diabetes, or IDDM, cannot regulate this influx of sugar.

Instead of sugar-heavy meals, dogs at-risk of developing diabetes or that already have it should consume a low-fat diet that is rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates. Instead of the sudden release of glucose that comes with sugar, these foods release glucose more slowly over a period of time, which helps keep levels more stable in your dog’s body and allows you to help them manage it with insulin injections if needed.

Your vet will work with you to identify the proper approach and diet for your dog to help lower their risk of developing diabetes or to help manage their current condition.

Insulin Injections

Dogs with Type 2 Diabetes, or IDDM, will need insulin injections at home as their bodies are not able to produce it naturally. It is important to the effectiveness of the treatment that these injections are given consistently and on a regular schedule. Every dog that requires insulin will need a different requirement, so you and your vet will work out which is best for them.

There are three general types of insulin injections – short-acting or short-range, medium-range, and long-range. Short-acting insulins tend to work for 1-4 hours while medium-range insulins work for 4-24 hours and long-range insulins work for 8-28 hours. Depending on your dog, they may require only one shot of insulin per day or they may require more.

Their treatment could be one type of insulin injection or a combination in order to give their body what it needs. It may also take some time and experimentation to find the right approach as it normally takes several visits to the vet along with blood work to figure out what works best.

Regular vet checkups, a good diet, and an active lifestyle can go a long way in helping to keep your dog healthy. But, things can still happen to even the healthiest of dogs and seeing your dog show unusual symptoms is scary. Knowing what to look for and what to expect can help both you and your dog get the help you need to weather the storm together.