Diabetes in dogs: 8 signs to watch

Diabetes is something that many of us are familiar with in humans.  But did you know that dogs are also prone to diabetes? As November is National Diabetes Month we’re highlighting signs of diabetes in dogs.  Diabetes in dogs can show as 2 different distinct types – insulin-deficient diabetes (in which a dog can’t produce enough insulin to keep glucose under control), and insulin-resistant diabetes (in which pregnancy or hormone levels prevent the dog’s insulin from functioning properly). 

What are the risk factors for diabetes in dogs?

  • Breed  – some breeds (such as dachshunds, schnauzers and Samoyeds) are more prone to the disease than others and mixed breeds are more likely to develop diabetes than pure breeds
  • Age – Diabetes can occur in dogs at almost any age but is seen more typically in older dogs between the ages of 7 and 10 years old
  • Gender – Female dogs tend to be more prone to the disease
  • Being overweight
  • Eating a poor diet
  • Having other medical conditions also contribute to developing diabetes

Signs your dog may have diabetes

You may notice some changes in your dog that could indicate that he or she has diabetes.

  • Your dog is a lot more hungry than normal.
  • Your dog is a lot more thirsty than normal.
  • Your dog is losing weight.
  • Your dog needs to urinate more frequently and in larger quantities.
  • Your dog is more tired than usual with low levels of energy.
  • Your dog is experiencing vision problems including the development of cataracts.
  • Your dog has more urinary tract infections than usual.
  • Your dog’s breath is sweet smelling.

If your dog is experiencing any of the above, you should consider taking your dog to the veterinarian’s office where blood tests will determine whether your pet has diabetes.

What treatment is available for diabetes in dogs?

If your dog has diabetes treatment will be needed, which will involve trying to keep glucose levels within a specific range.  Important elements of a treatment program will include giving your dog a controlled diet, putting your dog on a weight loss program if he is overweight, and ensuring that there is an exercise program in place.  Dietary changes will focus on a high fiber, low-fat diet although some veterinarians may prescribe a prescription diet specifically designed for diabetic dogs. Exercise is vital for lowering blood glucose levels but should be regular and consistent in both duration and exertion. Losing weight is very helpful in making cells use insulin more efficiently thereby keeping blood sugar levels in check. Home testing of the glucose levels will become a regular part of your routine and your veterinarian may also recommend testing your dog’s urine for ketones.

Your pet may also require medication in the form of insulin injections.  For many dogs this is done twice a day (once every 12 hours) after a meal.  It will be really important to stick to a strict schedule if injections are required.

Conditions that arise as a result of diabetes

Unfortunately, other conditions can arise as a result of diabetes, such as cataracts, hardening of the arteries, nerve problems, and infections of the gum, urinary tract, and skin. Some of these can be life-threatening conditions, so seeking treatment for diabetes is essential.


Don’t ignore the signs your dog may have diabetes. Most diabetic dogs can be treated at home and although the daily routine may now require a few more steps, this soon becomes a normal part of daily living.  Dogs with diabetes receiving consistent treatment can enjoy a full and happy life.

Information given in this article is not a substitute for advice from a qualified medical professional.  Please consult a veterinarian for advice specific to your dog.