Diabetes in Dogs: What You Need to Know

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that develops when your dog cannot use sugar (glucose) effectively and control the sugar level in the blood. Insulin, which is made in the pancreas, is essential for regulating the use and storage of blood glucose. Insufficient insulin production is potentially life threatening.

Just like in humans, diabetes in dogs is serious, but manageable. There are two types of diabetes, and although there is no cure, dogs with either type can be successfully managed through nutrition, exercise, and if necessary, regular insulin medication. With the right food and advice from your veterinarian, your diabetic dog can still enjoy a happy, active life.

What causes diabetes?

A reduction in insulin production is usually caused by damage to the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for producing the proper amount of insulin to control sugar levels. In some dogs hormonal changes or medications can reduce the effect of insulin. If your dog's pancreas is damaged, long-term and potentially life-threatening symptoms could occur and must be managed.

Factors that increase the chance of your dog developing diabetes include:

Body condition: Overweight or obese dogs are more likely to develop diabetes.

Age: Dogs can develop diabetes at any age, but the peak onset is around 8 years.

Gender: Females are twice as likely to develop diabetes.

Breed: Some breeds of dogs, such as Samoyeds, miniature schnauzers, miniature poodles and bichon frise are more predisposed to diabetes than others.

Other factors could include poor nutrition, hormonal abnormalities and stress.

Does my dog have diabetes?

The signs of diabetes are difficult to recognize because they are similar to those of other disorders like kidney disease. Your veterinarian may also need to perform tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis. If your dog appears weak or thirsty, frequently urinates, experiences rapid weight loss, is depressed, or has abdominal pain, he could be diabetic. If you notice these signs, please contact your veterinarian.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes:

  • Increased thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Not eating
  • Tired, lack of energy
  • Vomiting
  • Cataracts
Canine diabetes

* cats

IMPORTANT: Once diabetes is diagnosed, it is important that your dog is regularly monitored. Your veterinarian will check your dog’s glucose levels and will adjust medication to keep your dog stable.

Treatment and the importance of nutrition

Establish a routine: The key to keeping a diabetic dog healthy is routine. Feeding, exercise and  giving medication should take place at the same time each day. This helps maintain stable blood glucose levels. Your veterinarian and health care team can give you advice on the best routine for your pet. 

While there is no cure for diabetes mellitus, veterinarians recognize it can be controlled with insulin, exercise and proper nutrition.  The food your dog eats plays an important role in overall health and well-being.. When your dog has diabetes, it’s even more important to feed an appropriate dog food consistently.Therapeutic dog foods containing increased levels of fiber can help manage their blood sugar levels while also promoting a healthy body weight.  For accurate diagnosis and treatment options, always consult your veterinarian and ask them to recommend the best food for your dog’s diabetes.

Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian about Diabetes

  1. What are the treatment options for my dog’s diabetic health?
    • Ask how nutrition works with other available options
  2. Should nutrition be a part of my dog’s treatment regimen? Would you recommend veterinary food for my dog’s diabetic health?
    • What if I have multiple dogs? Can I feed them all the same dog food?
    • How can nutrition help? What are the benefits of feeding therapeutic food as part of my dog's management plan?
    • How long will I need to feed the recommended food to my dog?
  3. How long will I need to feed the recommended dog food to my dog?
    • Ask how feeding a therapeutic dog food can help promote diabetic health for my dog
  4. What is the best way (email/phone) to reach you or your hospital if I have questions?
    • Ask if you need a follow-up appointment.
    • Ask if a reminder email or notice will be sent.