A dog having a diabetes check up

Dog diabetes: identifying the signs of diabetes in dogs

Just as diabetes is on the rise in humans, it’s becoming more and more prevalent in our furry friends, too. We look at what dog diabetes is, and how to spot the signs and symptoms of diabetes in dogs, so you can get help and advice from your vet – fast.

What is dog diabetes?

  • Canine diabetes is an incurable disease caused when a dog’s pancreas stops producing insulin.
  • Dog diabetes is one of the most common hormonal (endocrine) diseases in dogs.
  • Diabetes in dogs can occur when your pup is as young as 18 months, though most dogs are aged between seven and ten when they’re diagnosed.
  • Around 70% of dogs with diabetes mellitus are female.
  • Dog diabetes affects all breeds of dog, but is most commonly diagnosed in poodles, dachshunds, springer spaniels, miniature schnauzers and cairn terriers.

The technical bit…

The pancreas of a healthy dog produces insulin, which the body uses to prevent glucose (sugar) in the blood becoming too high. Insulin is transported within the body to enable the cells to grow and flourish. 

Without the ability to control sugar levels in the blood, diabetic dogs suffer from hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar), which can cause increased thirst (polydipsia), hunger (polyphagia), and urination (polyuria). 

Signs and symptoms of diabetes in dogs

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss (although many diabetic dogs are overweight)

If left untreated, diabetes mellitus can cause a number of health issues in dogs. Much like humans, dogs with diabetes are prone to other health problems, such as cataracts and urinary tract infections. But dog diabetes is a common, treatable condition, and many dogs with the disease go on to lead active, happy lives. If left untreated, diabetes in dogs is eventually fatal.

The types of diabetes in dogs

Type 2 diabetes is rare in dogs; most dogs with diabetes suffer from type 1. A dog with type 1 diabetes can’t produce any insulin, so will depend on insulin treatments for life. Just as in humans with type 1 diabetes, this means daily injections. 

While the thought of injecting your dog worries many owners, there’s no need for concern – your vet will explain the best way to do this, and you’ll soon get the hang of it.

A dog with diabetes mellitus will need regular check-ups with the vet to monitor their condition, and you should always let your vet know immediately if you notice any changes to your dog’s appetite or thirst, or if they appear dizzy or faint at any time.

"Your vet will explain the best way to inject your dog, so there’s no need for concern".

Can diet help my dog with diabetes?

A balanced diet can massively improve the stability of your dog’s sugar levels. 

There are many specialised diets available and your vet will advise you on what and how much to feed your dog, and the best timing for meals and injections. 

As diabetes can be very serious, it is best diagnosed and treated early, so always contact your vet if you spot any of the signs and symptoms listed above. 

Need advice on diabetes in dogs?

For expert advice on diabetes in dogs, get in touch with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.