Cover Image for Identifying Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Your Dog
Pet Health

Identifying Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Your Dog

Learn how to spot and manage diabetes in dogs with our guide. From early symptoms like increased thirst and weight loss to treatment options and ongoing care, discover how to support your diabetic dog for a healthier and happier life.

Dr. Karen Whala

May 01, 2024

The Importance of Monitoring Your Dog's Health

Regular check-ups and careful monitoring of your dog’s health are essential components of being a responsible and loving pet parent. By remaining vigilant and observant of your pet's behavior and physical condition, you can play a proactive part in early disease detection, such as spotting the signs of diabetes. When diabetes is caught early in dogs, it allows for timely management and treatment, which can considerably reduce the progression and impact of the disease on your dog's wellbeing. Effectively overseeing your dog's health not only enhances their quality of life but also strengthens the cherished bond you share with your companion.

Understanding Diabetes in Dogs

Understanding diabetes in dogs is key to managing the condition and ensuring your pet's wellbeing. Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as 'sugar diabetes', is a metabolic disorder that affects the way a dog's body utilizes glucose, a vital source of energy. When a dog eats, its digestive system breaks down food into various components, including glucose, which enters the bloodstream. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, enables cells throughout the body to absorb this glucose and utilize it for energy.

In healthy dogs, this process keeps the blood sugar levels within a normal range. However, in dogs with diabetes, there is a malfunction in insulin production or action. Some dogs may have a pancreas that produces very little insulin or none at all — a condition similar to Type 1 Diabetes in people. Rarely dogs may have enough insulin, but their bodies do not effectively use it, akin to type 2 diabetes.

This insulin deficiency or resistance leads to elevated levels of glucose in the blood, known as hyperglycemia. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage various body systems, leading to complications such as cataracts, urinary tract infections, kidney failure, and even neurological issues.

As a pet owner, recognizing the signs of diabetes and understanding the role of insulin in your dog's health are critical steps in providing the best care for your diabetic dog.

Purpose of this Guide

The purpose of this guide is to provide pet owners with a comprehensive understanding of diabetes in dogs and how to manage it. This resource is designed to empower you by equipping you with the knowledge necessary to confidently care for your diabetic dog. It offers insight into recognizing early signs of diabetes, comprehending the diagnosis, exploring treatment options, and administering long-term health management. We aim to be a supportive guide through your journey, reinforcing that a diagnosis of diabetes can be adeptly managed with the appropriate care, keeping your cherished companion's well-being at the forefront.

Causes of Diabetes in Dogs

Several factors can contribute to the development of diabetes in dogs. Genetics can play a significant role, with certain breeds being more susceptible to the disease than others. For example, Australian Terriers, Samoyeds, and Schnauzers are among the breeds known to have a higher incidence of diabetes. Moreover, age is a factor, with most dogs diagnosed being age 5 or older.

Sex also plays a role, with unspayed female dogs being twice as likely to develop diabetes. For those rare dogs that develop Type 2 diabetes, obesity particularly stands out as a significant risk factor since it contributes to insulin resistance, a condition where the body doesn't use insulin properly, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Additional risk factors for dogs developing diabetes include chronic or repeated pancreatitis, the long-term use of steroid medications, and certain autoimmune disorders and viral diseases that can affect pancreatic function. By understanding these risks, pet owners can work towards maintaining their dog's health and mitigate the potential for diabetes where possible.

Impact of Diabetes on Your Dog's Health

Diabetes can have serious health consequences for your dog if left untreated. As mentioned earlier, diabetes leads to excessive sugar in the dog's bloodstream. At the same time, the body's cells, which need sugar for energy, can't access it. This can result in a state where cells are deprived of vital 'fuel', causing the body to break down its own fats and proteins to use as alternative fuel. Furthermore, high levels of glucose in the blood can have toxic effects, leading to damage to many organs including the kidneys, eyes, heart, blood vessels, and nerves. Therefore, early diagnosis and proper management are crucial in managing diabetes in dogs.

Identifying Signs of Diabetes in Your Dog

Excessive Thirst and Increased Urination

One of the earliest signs of diabetes in dogs is excessive thirst and increased urination. When a dog has diabetes, its body is unable to absorb and utilize glucose properly. This excess glucose is eliminated through the urine, which draws out more water from the body and leads to increased urination. Consequently, your dog may drink more to compensate for the loss of fluids. This cycle of excessive thirst and urination is a classic symptom that pet owners often notice first. Observing these signs in your dog is an indication to consult with a veterinarian for further evaluation and management of diabetes.

Unexplained Weight Loss

Unexplained weight loss is another common symptom of diabetes in dogs. Despite increased appetite, dogs with diabetes often lose weight. This is because their bodies aren't efficiently converting the nutrients from their food into usable energy. When the body's cells aren't getting the glucose they need for energy, the body starts breaking down its own fats and proteins to use as alternative fuel. This process can result in rapid weight loss. If your dog is eating normal portions or even showing an increased appetite but is still losing weight, it could be a sign of diabetes.

Increased Appetite

Increased appetite, medically termed as polyphagia, can be a sign of diabetes in dogs. This phenomenon occurs because the glucose necessary for cell energy is not being adequately utilized due to a lack of insulin or cellular resistance to insulin. As a result, despite the increased intake of food, the cells in the dog's body may still be in a 'starved' state. Consequently, the brain receives signals prompting hunger, leading the dog to eat more in an attempt to attain more energy. Nevertheless, without proper glucose metabolism, the additional calories won't get used as they should. This paradoxical situation can lead to further health complications, where the dog might even exhibit weight loss despite the apparent overeating. It’s key to recognize this symptom as it may help with early diagnosis and management of diabetes in canines.

Chronic or Recurring Infections

Chronic or recurring infections can also be a sign of diabetes in dogs. High blood sugar levels can weaken the immune system, making your pet more susceptible to infections. In particular, urinary tract infections are common in diabetic dogs due to the high sugar content in their urine, which provides a conducive environment for bacteria to thrive. If you notice that your dog seems to get sick more often than usual or has recurring infections, it could be a sign of an underlying issue like diabetes.

Symptoms that Indicate Advanced Diabetes in Dogs

Cataracts and Vision Loss

In more advanced stages of diabetes, dogs may develop cataracts and experience vision loss. High blood sugar levels can cause changes in the eyes, leading to the formation of cataracts, which are opacities in the eye's lens that can impair vision. In fact, a significant number of diabetic dogs develop cataracts within a year of diagnosis. Regular vet check-ups are crucial in these cases, as early detection and treatment can help manage the condition and preserve your dog's vision as much as possible.

Kidney Failure

Kidney failure is another potential complication of advanced diabetes in dogs. High blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys over time, impairing their ability to filter waste products from the blood. This can lead to kidney failure, a serious and life-threatening condition. Symptoms of kidney failure can include decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and changes in urination. If you observe any of these signs in your dog, especially if they have been diagnosed with diabetes, it's important to seek veterinary care immediately.


Neuropathy, often a result of prolonged high blood sugar levels, is characterized by nerve damage that can profoundly impact a dog's quality of life. This condition can lead to symptoms that include weakness, pain, or numbness, primarily evident in the limbs. As the condition advances, you may notice changes in your dog's gait or a noticeable limp, indicating discomfort or lack of coordination. Affecting your pet's ability to walk, neuropathy requires prompt veterinary attention, not only to address the immediate impairment but also to manage underlying diabetes and prevent further complications. It's vital to have regular veterinary check-ups, especially for dogs with a diagnosis of diabetes, to catch and manage symptoms of neuropathy early. If you notice any changes that could signal nerve damage, such as decreased mobility or altered sensations, reach out for professional consultations to help maintain your dog’s well-being.


Ketoacidosis is a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur in dogs with advanced diabetes. When the body can't use glucose for energy due to a lack of insulin, it starts breaking down fats for energy. This process produces ketones, which can build up in the blood and cause ketoacidosis. Symptoms of ketoacidosis can include rapid breathing, dehydration, lethargy, vomiting, or sweet-smelling breath. If your dog shows any of these signs, it's vital to seek emergency veterinary care immediately. Regular monitoring of your dog's health and blood sugar levels can help prevent such serious complications.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Dog Has Diabetes

Contacting Your Vet

If you suspect that your dog may have diabetes, it's vital to contact your vet immediately. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in managing the condition and ensuring your dog's wellbeing. Your vet can conduct simple tests to check for diabetes and other related health conditions, such as high liver enzymes and electrolyte imbalances. They will also play a crucial role in creating and implementing a management plan for your dog, including dietary recommendations, insulin therapy, and regular monitoring of blood sugar levels.

Preparing for Your Appointment

Before your appointment, it's helpful to gather as much information as possible about your dog's symptoms and medical history. This can include changes in eating, drinking, and urination habits, unexplained weight loss, and any other health concerns you may have noticed. Providing a detailed medical history can help your vet make an accurate diagnosis and develop an effective management plan for your dog's diabetes. Remember, every detail can be important, so don't hesitate to share any changes you have observed, no matter how small they may seem.

Understanding Your Dog's Diagnosis

Receiving a diabetes diagnosis for your dog can be a daunting experience. Comprehending what this condition entails is essential for their well-being and your peace of mind. Your veterinarian is a pivotal resource in this journey, offering detailed explanations about how diabetes will influence your pet's daily life and the necessary steps to adjust to this new normal.

Expected treatment for canine diabetes might consist of regular insulin shots, specific dietary adjustments, and vigilant blood sugar monitoring. These changes in your dog’s care can seem intimidating at first, but insight from your vet and support from resources can help in adapting to this new routine. By understanding the diagnosis fully, you can create a nurturing environment that supports your dog’s health, allowing them to lead a fulfilling and joyful life despite the condition.

Considering Your Treatment Options

Once your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, the path forward will include a combination of medical intervention and lifestyle adjustments. Daily insulin injections are often at the core of a diabetes treatment plan to help regulate your dog's blood sugar levels. Alongside this, dietary changes will be essential to support your dog's health and manage their weight—both of which are critical in handling diabetes effectively.

Regular exercise is not only beneficial for their physical health but also aids in maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Collaborating with your veterinarian to develop a personalized treatment plan is imperative; this ensures that the nutritional, medical, and physical activity recommendations are tailored to your pet's specific needs and circumstances. Adhering to this customized plan diligently is central to effectively managing your dog's diabetes. This includes maintaining a consistent routine, administering medication as prescribed, and scheduling regular check-ups to monitor your dog's condition and make necessary adjustments to their care.

Managing Your Dog's Diabetes

Adjusting Your Dog's Diet

A factor in managing your dog's diabetes may involve adjusting their diet. A balanced diet is essential for regulating your dog's blood sugar levels and maintaining their overall health. Your vet will likely recommend a diet that includes high-quality protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, which can help slow the absorption of glucose. A diet with relatively low-fat content may also be recommended. It's important to follow your vet's dietary recommendations and to feed your dog consistent meals at regular intervals to help prevent sudden spikes or drops in blood sugar levels.

Administering Insulin Therapy

Insulin therapy is a key part of managing diabetes in dogs. Most diabetic dogs will require daily shots of insulin under the skin, something that you as a pet owner will need to learn how to do. While it may seem daunting at first, administering insulin can become a quick and easy part of your daily routine. Your vet will show you how to give the injections and will provide guidance on the appropriate dosage for your dog. Regular insulin injections can help keep your dog's blood sugar levels stable and prevent the complications associated with diabetes. Many dogs accept insulin injections easily and most pet parents find that it can easily become part of their daily pet care routine.

Monitoring Your Dog's Blood Sugar Levels

Regular monitoring of your dog's blood sugar levels is crucial in managing diabetes. This helps ensure that the insulin dosage is appropriate and that your dog's blood sugar levels are being effectively controlled. As a pet owner, you play a crucial role in monitoring your dog's health. In addition to regular vet check-ups, you may be required to monitor your dog's blood sugar levels at home. This can involve regular testing of your dog's blood or urine. Your vet will provide guidance on how to do this and how often it is needed. Regular monitoring can help detect any changes in your dog's condition early and allow for timely adjustments to their treatment plan.

Regular Check-ups

Regular vet check-ups play a pivotal role in managing your dog's diabetes. These appointments are critical for monitoring your pet's blood glucose levels, adjusting medications as needed, and evaluating the overall success of the diabetes management plan. Early detection and intervention through these frequent visits are crucial for preventing complications associated with diabetes and for addressing other health concerns that may arise. Our team offers unwavering support and advice, empowering you to care for your diabetic pet with assurance and understanding.

The Importance of Early Detection

As we conclude this guide, recognizing the critical role of early detection in managing canine diabetes is essential. Catching the condition in its initial stages can lead to a considerably better prognosis for your dog, enhancing their overall quality of life. Consistent veterinary check-ups play a pivotal part in early detection, as they allow for the identification of any health deviations that could suggest the presence of diabetes. If detected early and managed properly, dogs with diabetes can continue to lead joyful and active lives. CodaPet is here to support you and your beloved pet through every phase of this journey.

The Role of Regular Vet Check-ups

Regular vet check-ups are indispensable, especially when managing conditions like your dog's diabetes. These visits allow your vet to closely monitor your dog's condition, ensuring the treatment plan is effective and making adjustments as necessary. Early detection of complications can save your pet from discomfort and prevent further health issues. Establishing and adhering to a regular schedule for vet visits is a proactive step towards safeguarding your dog's health. Your veterinarian is your ally in this journey, offering expert advice and support tailored to your dog's unique needs. Understanding and keeping up with regular vet check-ups is part of providing the best care for your canine friend.

Living with a Diabetic Dog

Living with a diabetic dog requires commitment and consistency, but with the right care and support, your dog can live a happy, active life. Establishing and maintaining a consistent routine is key in managing diabetes. This includes having fixed feeding times, administering insulin injections promptly, and ensuring regular exercise to help regulate your dog's blood sugar levels. Your role as a pet owner extends beyond these tasks; it encompasses understanding and adapting to your dog's changing health needs, providing emotional support, and creating a nurturing environment. Remember, your dog's diabetes diagnosis doesn't define them or their capacity for joy. With your love and care, they can continue to indulge in their favorite activities and live a comfortable life. CodaPet is dedicated to offering you guidance and resources to support you and your furry companion on this journey.

Resources and Support for Owners of Diabetic Dogs

Dealing with diabetes in your beloved dog can be a daunting experience. We acknowledge the deep bond you share with your pet and are devoted to providing the necessary resources and support. Our role is to guide you through managing your dog's diabetes, offering consultations, and helping arrange in-home euthanasia care when the time comes. The importance of a supportive community for pet owners cannot be understated, and our aim is to curate an environment filled with empathy and helpful advice. You are not on this path alone. By working together, your faithful companion can lead a joyful and satisfied life. Should your dog be diagnosed with diabetes, it's not a cause for despair. With proper veterinary guidance and care, you can continue to enrich each other's lives for years to come. Hopefully when the time comes to honor your pet’s wishes for a peaceful passing in the comfort, privacy and familiarity of home, please consider an in-home visit: Schedule Home Visit

Dr. Karen Whala

Fresno, CA


Dr. Karen Whala has always had a soft spot for the older pets she’s treated in practice and saw a need for these beloved pets to pass peacefully at home rather than in a clinic setting. To that end, she started Peaceful Passing in 2018 to help families assist their terminally ill, injured, or suffering pets as they transitioned from life in the Fresno and Clovis areas.  Read More

Take Our Quality-Of-Life Questionnaire