Diabetes in dogs - Symptoms, treatment and complications

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Diabetes is one of the diseases that both dogs and people have in common. It is due to a insulin deficiency that prevents taking advantage of the glucose that enters the body, so that it rises in the blood, which is manifested with the appearance of different symptoms, as we will see below.

Contrary to popular belief, diabetes does not only exist in older or obese dogs. In this AnimalWised article we talk about what life is like for a diabetic dog, how to learn to detect canine diabetes and much more.

You may also be interested in: Diabetes in cats - Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment Index
  1. What is diabetes in dogs?
  2. Causes of diabetes in dogs
  3. Types of diabetes in dogs
  4. Symptoms of diabetes in dogs
  5. Diagnosis of diabetes in dogs
  6. Treatment for diabetes in dogs
  7. Complications of diabetes in dogs
  8. Warning signs in diabetic dogs
  9. How long does a dog with diabetes last?

What is diabetes in dogs?

Diabetes occurs when there is an inadequate production of insulin. The insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas and that ensures that the glucose that is ingested through food reaches the interior of the cells, which is where it is transformed to produce the energy necessary for a correct metabolism.

Without enough insulin, therefore, glucose stays in the blood, causing what is known as hyperglycemia, which is a glucose level higher than what is considered normal. Besides in the blood, an excess of glucose is also detected in the urine. It is what is called glucosuria.

Causes of diabetes in dogs

It is believed that in the onset of diabetes there is a genetic predisposition. Some breeds in particular show a greater tendency to suffer from it, such as the golden retriever, the German shepherd or the poodle. But any dog, breed or crossbreed, can suffer from it. The data so far speak of a higher incidence in females and it is more common for dogs between the ages of 6-9 years to become ill.

Diabetes can also appear in dogs as a consequence of pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas that can destroy the cells that produce insulin. In some dogs this destruction is immune-mediated.

On the other hand, there may be diabetes caused by pregnancy, estrus, hyperadrenocorticism, or the administration of certain drugs. Likewise, obesity and diet are also important risk factors.

Types of diabetes in dogs

Diabetes in dogs can be of two types:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes

There's also secondary diabetes, which is what can appear, for example, during pregnancy, or transitory, such as due to the consumption of some drugs. Type 1 is the most common form in dogs. The destruction of the cells of the pancreas occurs, so the lack of insulin is total.

Symptoms of diabetes in dogs

¿Do you have doubts and need to know how to know if your dog has diabetes? These are the most common symptoms that the caregiver of a diabetic dog can detect:

  • Removal of large amounts of urine and more often.
  • Dehydration.
  • As a consequence of the above symptoms, a increase in water consumption.
  • There's also a increased appetite because the dog cannot take advantage of all the glucose it eats. But, when the disease progresses and there is already malnutrition, the opposite effect occurs. That is, the dog stops eating.
  • Despite the voracious appetite, there are weightloss.
  • In the advanced stages of diabetes, in addition to anorexia, lethargy, vomiting or general weakness can be detected.
  • Blindness due to diabetes in dogs stands out, since it is common for diabetes to cause waterfalls. These evolve quickly and are irreversible.

In addition to these general signs, diabetic dogs can suffer from what is known as diabetic cetoacidosis in cases of severe hyperglycemia. It is due to a lack of glucose that causes lipids to be metabolized in an attempt to get energy. Symptoms of high blood sugar in dogs due to this cause are:

  • General weakness.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Acetone odor, like nail polish remover, on your breath.

These cases constitute a veterinary emergency. The dog's life is in danger and it is essential to go immediately to the vet. Ketoacidosis has a poor prognosis.

Diagnosis of diabetes in dogs

If you have noticed any of the above symptoms, you are surely wondering how to detect diabetes in dogs. The answer always goes through the vet's consultation. In the analyzes of blood and urine samples the amount of glucose can be measured. High levels can diagnose diabetes. In addition, other alterations will appear that will provide the professional with more information about the general condition of the dog..

Treatment for diabetes in dogs

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, it is time to focus on how to treat diabetes in dogs. The pillars of this treatment are insulin, diet and exercise control. Stress should also be avoided as much as possible. You will not be able to keep your glucose at optimal levels all day, but it is feasible to achieve thresholds that cause minimal problems. We see it in more detail:

Medication for diabetes in dogs

The flagship drug to treat hyperglycemia in dogs is insulin, exactly the same as in people. Since the problem is due to a lack of this hormone, it can be controlled by providing it artificially. There are several brands and types of insulin, but the key is to get the dose right, since each dog will have particular needs. That is why the veterinarian will prescribe an initial dose and will mark controls to study its effectiveness and be able to adjust it until the desired effect is achieved. Treatment with insulin is done at home, so the caregiver will have to learn how to inject it, following the instructions that the veterinarian will provide..

Find out about everything in this other article: "Insulin for dogs - Types and doses ".

Diet and weight control

Obesity hinders the response to insulin, so it is important that if the diabetic dog has a few extra kilos, it is given a diet to regain its ideal weight. Likewise, those specimens that have lost weight will have to consume a diet that allows them to regain it. In any case, it is convenient to give the food always at the same time and in two takes to be combined with medication to improve glucose control.

Physical activity

Practice regular adapted exercise to the conditions of the dog, it helps to keep glucose levels under control and to lose or maintain optimal weight in those dogs that are overweight or obese. Walks and any physical activity should be set at the same times.


Bitches with diabetes have to be spayed to avoid fluctuations that will occur during their cycle and that negatively influence the effect of insulin. Sterilizing them as soon as possible will make diabetes control easier. Learn about sterilization of dogs to know what the surgery consists of, what the recovery is like and much more.

Complications of diabetes in dogs

It must be taken into account that a considerable percentage of diabetic dogs suffer from other diseases that must be treated and that can make diabetes control difficult. They are also more prone to other disorders, such as urinary tract infections. In any case, in general, diabetic dogs suffer fewer complications than humans in the same situation. They live fewer years in comparison and the prolongation of the disease over time is what causes more complications. On the other hand, the waterfalls as the most frequent complication.

Finally, sometimes the dog can decompensate, which requires going to the veterinarian to adjust the treatment and control the symptoms that have appeared. It is therefore essential that we go to the clinic whenever our diabetic dog presents any alteration in its health. In any case, it is essential to go to the follow-up check-ups prescribed by the veterinarian.

Warning signs in diabetic dogs

If it is always important to comply with the treatments as prescribed by the veterinarian, in this case it is essential. An error that can happen is the insulin overdose, which causes blood glucose to fall far below normal values, causing a hypoglycemia. Its symptoms include confusion, disorientation, drowsiness, tremors, incoordination, seizures, and even collapse, and eventually coma..

Detecting any of these signs is reason to go urgently to the vet. The same if the dog has symptoms compatible with a sugar rise, such as weakness, vomiting, rapid breathing, or the smell of acetone on the breath. In general, any alteration should be reported to the professional, as it may indicate a decompensation.

How long does a dog with diabetes last?

A well-controlled diabetic dog can lead an almost normal life. Diabetes will not be cured, but the goal of treatment is to provide you with a good quality of life, normalize your body condition and control the clinical signs that it manifests, in addition to avoiding the most serious risks of the disease, which are hypoglycemia and ketoacidosis. Therefore, the prognosis will depend on different factors and it will be better the more compensated the diabetes is. The role of the caregiver is essential at this point, since he is the one who must comply at home with the treatment prescribed by the professional.

Therefore, it is not possible to establish a life expectancy of the dog with diabetes, since it will depend on the care you receive. So, if your dog has diabetes, don't hesitate to follow the vet's guidelines to offer him the best possible quality of life..

This article is merely informative, at AnimalWised.com we do not have the power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in the event that it presents any type of condition or discomfort.

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