What is Canine Diabetes

Everyone wants the best for their pet. Of course, a happy dog is a healthy one. So, it’s important to know what you can do if your dog suffers from diseases and health conditions. 

One of the canine health conditions that’s important to look out for is diabetes which is, unfortunately, a common illness in canines. However, knowing what to look for to tell if your dog has diabetes and how to manage it can mean a long and enjoyable life for your dog.

What is Canine Diabetes?

Canine diabetes is a chronic insulin deficiency disorder in your dog’s body caused by insufficient or no insulin production in the pancreas. 

As a result, your dog’s body inadequately responds to the hormone insulin, causing poor glucose absorption into the bloodstream or incorrect urine concentration by the kidneys

A Dog lying on the floor suffering from Canine Diabetes

There are two types of canine diabetes that your dog can suffer from:

Canine Diabetes Mellitus

Canine diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disorder that destroys the vital insulin-producing beta cells within the pancreas.

This causes an imbalance in glucose levels in your dog’s blood.

Canine diabetes insipidus

Canine diabetes insipidus is a rare condition in dogs caused by the inability of the kidneys to correctly concentrate urine, even though the blood glucose levels are normal. 

Although diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus have similar symptoms in frequent urination and increased water intake, they are two completely different conditions. Our primary focus in this and other articles is on canine diabetes mellitus. However, you can read complete details about diabetes insipidus in our article on Types of Canine Diabetes.  

Canine Diabetes Risk Factors

Canine diabetes affects 1 in 500 dogs. There are a number of factors that are known to predispose or cause canine diabetes:

  • Breed-specific genetic factors (especially in the Samoyed dog, Pug, some Terriers, Dachshund, Siberian husky, Retrievers, and Bichon Frisé).
  • Age (Middle-aged dogs are more susceptible).
  • Sex (the prevalence of canine diabetes is twice as much in female than male dogs).
  • Overweight and obesity.
  • Chronic Pancreatitis (the dog cannot produce insulin as it should).
  • Dogs with infections and underlying health conditions such as UTIs, Cushing’s disease, and Acromegaly.
  • Intact female dogs (unsprayed female dogs are at a greater risk than spayed ones due to higher progesterone levels.
  • Prolonged use of certain medications like progestogens, steroids, and Cortisone-type drugs.

Find more details on these risk factors in our article on the Causes of Diabetes in Dogs. Note also that there are many exceptions to the risk factors. For example, adolescents, spayed, and dogs with no underlying conditions can also get diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

It is extremely important to know how to spot the first signs and symptoms of diabetes in dogs so that your pet can be diagnosed as quickly as possible and begin receiving treatment. 

Untreated canine diabetes can lead to serious disorders, such as weakness in the dog’s legs, dehydration, malnutrition, loss of eyesight, or even death. 

However, picked early and managed correctly, diabetes should not affect your dog’s quality of life or shorten its life span.

These are the signs of diabetes you should look for if you suspect your dog has diabetes:

  • Increased thirst (polydipsia).
  • Frequent urination (polyuria).
  • Increased appetite (polyphagia).
  • Loss of weight and muscle.
  • Lethargy and weakness in the legs.
  • Poor sight (gradual or sudden blindness).
  • Sweet breath.
  • Poor coat quality.
  • Vomiting and shaking.
  • A depressed mood.

Is Diabetes Treatable?

Canine diabetes is not curable. Any treatment efforts are geared at managing canine diabetes to ensure your dog has a good life. 

Complete details on canine diabetes management are discussed in our article on the treatment for diabetes in dogs. In summary, canine diabetes treatment involves the following 5 lifestyle and medical measures: 

Insulin Therapy

Insulin therapy involves injecting your diabetic dog with insulin twice or once daily, depending on the type of insulin and your dog’s condition. Be sure to read about the types of insulin given to diabetic dogs in our complete guide on medication for diabetes in dogs.

Healthy Diet

A diabetic dog’s diet has to be low-fat and includes all the nutrients required for the condition. These nutrients include complex carbohydrates, calories, fiber, and water. 

Our article on diet for diabetic dogs explains each of these nutrients in detail. It also describes how the diet should be given and what precautions you should take if you go for a homemade dog diabetic diet.

Regular Exercise 

Exercising your dog is crucial in helping your dog stay lean. However, be careful not to over-exercise your dog. Using up too many calories during a single exercise schedule can deplete the sugar levels in your dog’s blood and cause hypoglycemia.

Regular Blood Sugar Monitoring 

You can monitor your dog’s blood sugar using a home testing kit such as Alpha TRAK 2. You’ll need to understand your dog’s blood glucose levels, so you know when your pet’s sugar levels are normal, when they are too high or too low, and when to see a vet immediately. 

Because canine diabetes affects other body metabolisms and is a life-long condition, it will often cause other health conditions, including:

  • Diabetes eye disease 
  • Pancreatitis
  • Urinary Tract Infections 
  • Diabetes ketoacidosis
  • Kidney failure

Our complete article on problems associated with canine diabetes discusses these diabetes-related dog health issues in detail.

Because each dog is unique, discussing your pet’s diabetes treatment with your veterinarian is extremely important. Also, consider getting dog insurance as diabetes treatment can be costly and will go on throughout your dog’s life. 

Getting your diabetic dog insurance early in the pet’s life is advised, as some insurers don’t cover preexisting conditions. You can get a free quote for pet insurance from insurer websites. See an example with ASPCA Pet Insurance.

How Do I Care for my Diabetic Dog?

Proper care is important when it comes to the management of canine diabetes. Such care involves the 4 lifestyle and medical measures discussed above. 

A dog being taken care by his owner

You should also include the following additional measures when caring for your diabetic dog:

  • Consult your dog’s vet about making and following a treatment plan for your diabetic dog.
  • Keep proper records of your dog’s insulin injections, especially if more than one person in the family administers the treatment. 
  • Keep your dog hydrated to counter the 3 Ps of dog diabetes: Polydipsia (increases thirst and water intake), Polyuria (frequent urination), and Polyphagia (increased appetite). 
  • Spay your female dog to preempt the negative effect of high progesterone hormone levels on the working of insulin in your dog’s body.
  • Work with your dog’s vet to determine the most appropriate diabetic treatment for your dog.

See our article on caring for your diabetic dog for more complete details. 

Dog Diabetes FAQs

Owners of diabetic dogs often ask the following questions.

A dog diabetes blood sugar chart is a tool for determining the effectiveness of the insulin injections on your dog and deciding the appropriate dose and frequency of insulin administration. 

Keeping a dog’s diabetes blood sugar chart helps maintain your dog’s blood sugar levels as close to the normal range (80-120 mg/dc) as possible for the better part of the day. This helps reduce the severity of diabetes symptoms and complications.

To complete a dog diabetes blood sugar chart, sample and test your dog’s blood before giving insulin and at 1-2 hour intervals for 12-24 hours.

Your dog’s diabetes blood sugar curve will help determine: 

  1. Insulin effectiveness, or the maximum and minimum blood sugar levels, which should be around 100-250 mg/dl.
  2. Glucose nadir, or the lowest blood sugar level goal which ranges between 100 and 150 mg/dl.
  3. The duration of insulin effectiveness, or the length of time it takes your dog’s blood sugar levels to reach 250 mg/dl after the insulin injection.

No. A dog cannot recover from diabetes because the condition is incurable. Instead, dog diabetes has to be managed throughout your dog’s life with diet, insulin therapy, exercise, consistent monitoring of blood sugar, and the treatment of diabetes-related conditions.

Final Thoughts

Discovering your pet has diabetes can be hard news to accept. But knowing diabetes can be successfully managed to give your dog quality of life is comforting.  

Follow your dog’s treatment with the vet and ensure you have insurance cover for your pet, so you don’t break your bank taking care of your diabetic dog.