Is My Dog at Risk of Diabetes?

Any dog can get diabetes, but some dogs are more prone than others. That explains why many dog owners today have this question consistently at the back of their minds: Is my dog at risk of diabetes?

Some dogs are genetically predisposed to diabetes, which is the number one risk of diabetes in dogs. Others are prone to diabetes because of age, sex, health, and being overweight. Your dog could be prone to diabetes for one of these factors.

While that may sound rather general, understanding exactly how real the risk of diabetes is for your pet is something every dog owner should know. You’ll find every help you need to weigh the risk of diabetes for your dog in this article.

What is the Risk of Diabetes in Dogs?

Diabetes is a fairly common condition among dogs. One in every 300 dogs is diagnosed with diabetes at some point in the pet’s life. This prevalence suggests that around 230,000 households out of the 69 million that own a dog in the US will have a pet with diabetes. 

Diabetes risk in dog.

The good news is that this figure only constitutes 0.3% of households with diabetic dogs. The bad news is, that one out of 300 could be your pet. 

Should you be worried? 

Not just yet! 

Your response to the following questions will help you assess how vulnerable your furry friend could be to canine diabetes:

  • Is your dog still a puppy? – Are puppies prone to diabetes?
  • What breed is your dog? – Is your dog among the breeds most prone to diabetes?
  • What is your dog’s sex? – Are male or female dogs most prone to diabetes?
  • Is your dog obese or overweight? – Can obesity cause diabetes in dogs?
  • Is your dog healthy? – What underlying health conditions predispose your dog to diabetes?
  • Does your lifestyle predispose you to diabetes? – Do owners share the risk of diabetes with their dogs?

Let’s address these questions at length to help you find your answers. 

How Common is Diabetes in Puppies?

Puppies are dogs that are still premature in their physical and emotional maturity. That can last from birth to about 18 months, depending on the dog’s breed.

It is a commonplace for most of us to think that puppies enjoy good health compared to adult and older dogs. That’s largely true, even for canine diabetes. Although dogs can get diabetes at any age, the majority of dogs suffer from diabetes at the age of 4-14 years. However, diabetes diagnosis often happens later when the dogs are around 7-10 years of age.

This means that if your dog is still a puppy, your dog’s risk of diabetes is lower than in adult or senior dogs. As a precaution, you should bring your puppy for an annual checkup to keep track of the pet’s safety from diabetes. Early diagnosis is always a plus in canine diabetes management.

What Breeds of Dogs Have a High Risk of Diabetes?

Good health is one of the main characteristics potential dog owners consider when choosing the breed of their new pet. It’s known that some dog breeds are more predisposed to certain diseases than others. So, which dog breeds are most prone to diabetes?

Studies have shown that the following dog breeds are genetically predisposed to diabetes: 

  • Poodles
  • Samoyeds
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Pugs
  • Australian Terriers
  • Siberian Huskies
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • West Highland White Terriers
  • Bichon Frise
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Schnauzers 
  • Dachshunds
  • Fox Terriers
  • Cairn Terriers
  • Puli
  • Keeshonds
  • Beagles

Dog breeds less predisposed to diabetes include:

  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • Boxers

Note that genetic predisposition does not necessarily mean your dog will suffer from diabetes. For dog owners, however, knowing your furry friend is of a breed considered to be more predisposed to diabetes is important. It means you must give more attention to ensuring dog diabetes prevention measures are taken.

Can Obesity Increase the Risk of Diabetes in Dogs?

Photo Credit: istra_oninsta

Healthy weight is a primary recommendation for overall dog wellness. It is also a core recommendation for the prevention of canine diabetes. Is that because obesity causes diabetes in dogs?

Obesity is not a direct cause of diabetes in dogs. However, being obese increases a dog’s risk for diabetes. This is because obesity causes excessive fat accumulation in the body, which causes your dog’s body cells to become resistant to insulin

Obesity also predisposes your dog to pancreatitis, an inflammatory disease that destroys the beta cells that control insulin production in the pancreas. 

Both insulin resistance and abnormal insulin production and utilization lead to impaired blood glucose metabolism, the real problem in diabetic dogs.

That said, it is important to ensure always that your dog has a healthy weight. This article by a professional veterinarian has an exciting and easy way to test your dog for overweight (or underweight) using just your hands:

If you discover that your dog is overweight or obese, you should see that as a risk signal for diabetes. 

Why Do Female Dogs Get Diabetes?

The odds of developing diabetes are twice as high in female dogs than in males. Also, female unspayed dogs are at a greater risk than their spayed counterparts. Here’s why:

Unspayed females have regular ovarian activity, which produces high levels of progesterone and the growth hormone during the heating season and in gestation. Progesterone is linked to poor insulin production and usage, factors that predispose your dog to estrus-related diabetes.

A study in Spain found that dioestrus-induced diabetes was more prevalent than insulin-deficient diabetes in a dog population where 87% were female.

If you spay your dog, you stop the ovarian activity. That reduces progesterone surges and the risk of diabetes triggered by estrus or pregnancy. In fact, a study has suggested that dioestrus-induced diabetes can be reversed with ovariohysterectomy within 39 days.

Do Male Dogs Get Diabetes? 

Male dogs can get diabetes, just like all other dogs. However, male dogs present a lower risk of diabetes when compared to their female counterparts.

An earlier mentioned study found that male diabetic dogs constituted only 20.7% compared to 79.3% of females.

Also, unlike female dogs, where the risk is greater if the dog is unspayed, neutered dogs are at a higher risk for diabetes than intact male dogs.

What Underlying Health Conditions Predispose Dogs to Diabetes?

Comorbidity, or the copresence of two or more diseases or health conditions, is common in dogs with diabetes. Often, the second disease is an underlying condition prior to a dog diabetes diagnosis.

The following underlying health conditions predispose your dog to diabetes:

  • Pancreatitis.
  • Obesity.
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease).
  • Autoimmune disorders.
  • Heart disease.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Urinary tract infections.

Although not a condition but a medical response to certain health conditions, consistent glucocorticoid treatment also predisposes your dog to diabetes.

If your pet has one or multiple of these conditions, you should work closely with a vet to ensure proper treatment and dosage, as that limits your dog’s risk for diabetes. 

The Shared Risk of Diabetes Between Dogs and Their Owners

Dog with its owner

It is widely known that owning a dog has a positive health connection because it encourages exercise and active life. Nonetheless, it is also true that an unhealthy lifestyle among dog owners has a negative impact on dogs. 

For example, dogs whose owners had diabetes showed a likelihood of developing diabetes, according to a study

The link between dog-owner diabetes is associated with dog exposure to behavior and environmental factors that predispose to diabetes, including:

Assess your lifestyle and environment for these markers to understand if your dog is at risk of diabetes.


Still have questions about your dog’s risk for diabetes? One of the two below could be what you are looking for.

What Causes Sudden Onset of Diabetes in Dogs?

Diabetes in dogs is never really sudden. Usually, the dog has had diabetes-predisposing conditions prior to manifesting the symptoms. For example, a dog with chronic pancreatitis may suddenly test positive for diabetes due to extensive organ damage. 

Similarly, an obese dog has consistent body cell resistance to insulin and can suddenly manifest diabetes symptoms, even though the condition has developed gradually.

What are the Symptoms of Undiagnosed Diabetes in Dogs?

Diabetes diagnosis is often made late. So, it is possible that your dog has diabetes and has not yet been diagnosed. 

Your dog should be seen by a vet ASAP if you notice any of these symptoms prior to diabetes diagnosis:

  • Increased water intake (polydipsia).
  • Consistent food intake despite weight loss (polyphagia).
  • Increased urination or polyuria. 
  • Cloudy eyes.
  • Recurring infections.

Early diagnosis enhances successful dog diabetes management.