Diabetes in Dogs: Breeds, Symptoms & Solutions

Diabetes in Dogs: Breeds, Symptoms & Solutions

Have you noticed your dog lapping up more water lately – and going to the toilet nonstop? If you’re worried your dog has diabetes, you’re not alone.  It’s now estimated that 1 in every 300 dogs will get diabetes in their lifetime. Currently, there is no cure for diabetes but when properly managed with medication, diet, and exercise, a dog can live a long and healthy life.  

Different types of diabetes

  Just like humans, there are two major forms of diabetes found in our pets: type one and type two.   

Type One 

  Type one diabetes, all known as “insulin-dependent” diabetes or diabetes mellitus, is the most common form of canine diabetes. When your dog eats, this food is digested and broken down into various nutrients, including glucose. Glucose, or sugar, provides the cells with the energy your dog needs to catch a ball or chase her tail. Diabetes occurs when your dog’s body fails to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. This causes an abnormal sugar metabolism. In other words, the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to transfer excessive amounts of glucose into the cells. As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream. Type one diabetes is a lifelong condition that can be kept under control with insulin therapy. While diet doesn’t directly cause diabetes in dogs, a healthy lifestyle may help reduce the risk and help manage it.  

Type Two

  Type two diabetes is found in cats not dogs. It is also known as “non-insulin-dependent diabetes” and occurs when the cat’s body has impaired insulin secretion and/or peripheral insulin resistance.   A common risk factor for type 2 diabetes in cats is obesity, as the fat tissue causes a series of events that leads to insulin impairment or resistance. Simply put, the pancreas is producing insulin but not the appropriate amount to meet the needs of the body. This can lead to insulin resistance whereby the cells no longer respond to insulin. Type two diabetes can sometimes be reversed in cats through weight loss and improvements in diet and exercise  

Symptoms of diabetes in dogs

  Here are a few common signs of diabetes in dogs that you need to watch out for: 
  • Increased/excessive urination 
  • Increased/excessive drinking
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting 
  • Weakness or fatigue 

Untreated diabetes in dogs

  When diabetes is left untreated, it can have severe effects on your dog’s health. The symptoms of a chronic condition include:    Remember to consult your vet right away if you notice any symptoms. The earlier the diagnosis, the better. This helps to prevent further complications.   

What are the risk factors? 

  Some known risk factors of your dog developing diabetes include:   

Immune-mediated disease

This results when your dog’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. If the cells that make insulin in the pancreas get destroyed, this causes diabetes.

Age and gender

While dogs can get diabetes at any age, it is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged dogs (mean 7-9 years). Moreover, female dogs are more likely to develop diabetes than male dogs. Unspayed females are at risk of having hormonal-induced diabetes. For this reason, you may want to consider having your dog spayed. 


Genetics plays a significant role in the development of diabetes. While any dog can get diabetes, some dog breeds have been shown to be more genetically predisposed for the disease than others. These include: 
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Beagle
  • Boxer
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Chow Chow
  • Dachshund
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Finnish Spitz
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Golden Retriever
  • Hungarian Puli
  • Keeshond
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Poodle
  • Samoyed
  • Schipperke
  • Springer Spaniel
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier


Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. Chronic pancreatitis can gradually destroy the cells that produce insulin, resulting in diabetes. Although the cause of pancreatitis is often unknown, too much fat in the diet is a potential risk factor.  

Diagnosing diabetes in dogs

  Diabetes is diagnosed by checking your dog’s glucose level in a blood test or in a urine sample. A normal blood sugar level for dogs is similar to that of people at around 80-120 mg/dl, while a reading of 250-300mg/dl could indicate diabetes. For diabetic dogs, blood glucose levels can rise to above 400-600 mg/dl.   

How to manage and treat diabetes in dogs



Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that can be successfully managed with the proper administration of insulin.The dose and frequency of insulin can vary and is likely to change over time. It may take months for your vet to determine the best possible dosage for your dog.   One way to do this is by testing your dog’s blood sugar levels. Your vet will perform a blood-glucose curve by taking a measurement every one to two hours over the course of 12-24 hours. A newer way to do this is by using a continuous glucose monitoring device (made for humans) that can be attached to your dog’s skin. Blood glucose values help your vet to evaluate how your dog is responding to the insulin so they can review her treatment plan and adjust it accordingly.  While diabetes requires your dog to have regular check-ups throughout her lifetime, home monitoring has become a common practice among owners of diabetic dogs. Things to keep an eye on are your dog’s appetite, water consumption, energy level, and urine output. 


There are a number of factors to consider in a diabetic dog’s diet. Sometimes, you don’t have to change a thing. However, it is important to evaluate your dog’s body condition and determine if they need to lose or gain weight. Some diabetic dogs do better on a higher fiber which can slow digestion and decrease sugar absorption. For dogs with a history or new diagnosis of pancreatitis, a very low-fat diet may need to be considered.  Most veterinarians would agree that the key to the diet is consistency. i.e. feed your dog the same foods, the same treats, and give them insulin at the same time each day. Remember,  while diet can play a role in managing your dog’s blood sugar levels, your dog still requires insulin and any other medications your vet prescribes. Any change you make to the diet or feeding schedule can affect the need for insulin. Make sure to ask for your veterinarian’s recommendation as to what would be the best diet plan for your dog.  

Preventing diabetes in dogs

  Although diabetes is usually the result of a genetic disorder, there are certainly things that you can do to improve your dog’s overall health and reduce her risk of developing the condition.

Regular check-ups 

Visit your vet frequently for checkups and contact them immediately if you notice any symptoms. 

Exercise with your dog

Make sure she maintains a healthy weight by providing regular exercise on a daily basis. 

Feed a balanced diet

Feed your dog a complete and balanced diet appropriate for their lifestage. Try to avoid fatty foods that could trigger pancreatitis.   

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