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Diabetes in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

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Chances are you've known someone who has diabetes, so you know it takes a lot of work to manage the disease. There's the regular glucose testing and always being prepared for unexpected shifts in blood sugar levels. At the same time, diabetes is a manageable condition, and those who develop it usually carry on normal lives once their condition is under control.

But when we think of diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus and sugar diabetes, we usually don't think about our canine companions. Just like people, our pups can become diabetic too. And like diabetic people, diabetic dogs can live normal lives with proper care and treatment.

Overview of Dog Diabetes

When it comes to dog diabetes, there are similarities between pooches and pet parents. Dog diabetes can be classified as either Type I or Type II. Dogs most frequently develop Type I, which means their pancreas is not producing insulin. Diabetes Type II, which is actually more common in cats, means your pet is not correctly processing the insulin that is being produced.

With either type of diabetes in dogs, the blood sugar will rise and cause an excessive amount of glucose in the blood. While there's no cure for dog diabetes, once the symptoms are identified and treatment is outlined, there's a good chance your dog will lead a relatively normal life.

Samoyed sleeping outside on a log

Common Dog Diabetes Symptoms

Diabetes is most commonly seen in middle-aged and older dogs, but it's not unheard of in younger dogs. If you see any of the following behaviors in your doggy, young or old, get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances are that your dog will enjoy a healthy life. So what are the symptoms and signs of diabetes in dogs?

  • Change in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Cataract formation

If your canine compadre exhibits any of these symptoms, have them checked out by your veterinarian to see if they've developed diabetes or if they've come down with another medical condition. Need help finding a vet? Use our Vet Clinic Finder to locate a practice that's close to you.

Puppy diabetes symptoms are similar to those of older dogs. However, diabetes in puppies is not very common. If you suspect that your puppy may have diabetes, it is important to take them to the vet and have them tested, multiple times.

Young puppies have been known to have temporary episodes where their blood sugar either spikes or drops, and female dogs have been known to temporarily develop insulin resistance while they are in heat or while they are pregnant. Various tests can help validate whether they were just having an episode, or if their blood sugar is consistently irregular.

Dog Diabetes Diagnosis

It's vital to seek medical attention for a professional diagnosis and a proper treatment plan if you suspect that your dog is diabetic. Your veterinarian will probably perform a physical examination and check your dog's clinical signs.

In addition, your veterinarian will likely request further testing, like blood tests, a chemical profile, and a urinalysis.

Australian terrier running on a leash

How to Treat Diabetes in Dogs

If your veterinarian diagnoses your pooch with diabetes, the bad news is that it can't be cured, and you will need to administer treatments for the rest of your pal's life—there is good news, though. Dog diabetes is quite controllable with proper management and treatment.

If it is determined that diabetes is the root cause of your dog's symptoms, your veterinarian will probably move forward with some of the following treatments:

  • Dog diabetes diets are specialized, high fiber, high protein diets to help normalize glucose levels—ask your veterinarian for recommendations on diabetic dog foods and diabetic dog treats
  • Insulin injections are often required to provide proper regulation of blood sugar and help the body store energy from food
  • Spaying your dog is recommended since certain female hormones can affect blood sugar
  • Daily exercise routine helps your dog maintain a consistent, healthy weight—a nice long walk isn't bad for pet parents, either

It's likely that your veterinarian will prescribe insulin treatments for your pooch. Your veterinarian or veterinary technician can teach you how to properly administer these daily insulin injections. While the very thought of sticking your pup with a needle may sound painful, the needle is very small, and most dogs tolerate it pretty well—plus, you're helping them stay healthy, and that's the ultimate reward!

In addition to insulin and other treatments, successful diabetic care will require you to take your pal in for regular examinations and have routine blood and urine tests completed. It will also be essential for you to monitor your pup's weight, food and water consumption, and urination.

Dog Diabetes Awareness

Dog diabetes can't be prevented since the exact cause remains unknown. However, certain factors can make a pooch more susceptible to developing diabetes.

Overweight or obese dogs, for instance, have an increased likelihood of becoming diabetic. Likewise, dogs who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, heart disease, urinary tract infections, or chronic pancreatitis are more at risk for developing the disease.

Most diabetic dogs develop the disease when they are between 7 and 10-years-old. While proper care, exercise, and a healthy diet are important for all dogs, they are especially important for older dogs and can help prevent the development of diabetes.

Genetic factors can also influence the likelihood of a dog developing diabetes. Diabetes is more common in certain breeds like:

  • Australian Terriers
  • Schnauzers (standard and mini)
  • Dachshunds
  • Poodles
  • Keeshonds
  • Samoyeds

grey Schnauzer resting on tile floor

Dogs for Diabetics

As you know, if your dog ever develops diabetes, they are going to count on you to administer their insulin injections and to make sure they're adapting well to their new lifestyle. Now, thanks to specialized training, dogs can return the favor when their human is diagnosed with diabetes.

Medical assistant diabetic alert dogs are being trained to help insulin-dependent individuals manage their treatments. Thanks to their powerful noses, these dogs can notice a change in blood sugar and alert their owner. Who would have thought that those wet noses were good for more than a cold surprise?

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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