What is Diabetes in Dogs (Canine Diabetes)?

Diabetes in dogs refers to a medical condition characterized by a low amount of insulin or inability to properly use it. After eating food, a dog breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose, which is transported to different body tissues by insulin. Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone which is produced by the pancreas and helps glucose to get into the cells. Glucose is a form of sugar which acts as a fuel to our body cells. In case the diabetic dog cannot produce enough insulin or normally use it, it may lead to a build up of blood glucose levels, also known as hyperglycemia. If hyperglycemia is left untreated, it could cause serious health complications for a diabetic dog. Therefore, as a pet owner, it is important you understand how you can manage the canine diabetes so that your dog can live a healthy long life. Approximately 70 percent of diabetes in dogs occurs in female dogs.

Different Types of Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes can be classified as either type 1 diabetes (T1D) or type 2 diabetes (T2D). T1D refers to a condition where your body cannot produce insulin because the pancreas is impaired. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes refers to a condition where the body cannot produce enough insulin or use it properly. The most common form of diabetes that occurs in dogs is T1D. Dogs which are diagnosed with T1D require insulin injection so that they can live for longer.

Signs and Symptoms

There are certain signs and symptoms which could be an indication that your dog is suffering from diabetes. In case you notice any of the following signs and symptoms, you should take your dog to see a veterinarian.

  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive thirst
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Change in appetite
  • Blindness

Causes of Canine Diabetes

Although it is difficult to know the exact cause of dog diabetes, there are different factors which can contribute to it. It is believed that dogs that are obese and female dogs are at a greater risk of developing diabetes when they reach middle age. Obesity can lead to risk of developing arthritis and heart disease. Fat cells normally secrete chemical messengers and hormones, which promotes inflammation. Obesity is an inflammatory state which contributes to the risk of having diabetes and pancreatitis. Pancreatitis refers to the inflammation of the pancreas, which leads to destruction of beta cells. Beta cells are responsible for producing the hormone insulin. Because there is no insulin being produced, it will lead to a rise in the level of blood sugar, hence diabetes in dogs may occur.

Pancreatitis can be caused by high amounts of fat in the blood, high amount of calcium in the blood and obesity. About 25 percent of diabetic dogs have pancreatitis. It is important you monitor the fat that your dog consumes so that you can prevent the risk of pancreatitis and diabetes. Certain medications such as rabies vaccination are known to cause canine diabetes. Dogs that are vaccinated every year have a higher risk of developing diabetes. Even though any dog can get diabetes, there are some breeds which are at a higher risk of having diabetes compared to others. For example, Poodle, Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Keeshond, Miniature Pinscher, Tibetan Terrier, and German Shepherd are more prone to developing diabetes.


In case your dog is diagnosed with diabetes you should not panic. It can be difficult to see your dog suffer from diabetes but the good news is that diabetes in dogs is treatable. Before choosing the right treatment method for your dog, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination, including urinalysis to determine if the symptoms exhibited by your dog is as a result of diabetes or another medical condition. Diabetes treatment will vary depending on how severe the signs of diabetes are and lab test results. Almost every diabetic dog requires an insulin therapy as a form of treatment. However, every dog will respond differently to different treatment. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the treatment method is tailored to each diabetic dog throughout its lifetime.

Treatment of diabetes in dogs includes the following:


Your veterinarian will come up with the best diet program that will suit your diabetic dog. Typically, this includes a good quality of protein, fiber and complex carbs that will help reduce the absorption of sugar. Your veterinarian may also recommend a diet that has less fat for your diabetic dog.

Insulin injections

Most diabetic dogs will require insulin medications so as to effectively manage their blood glucose levels. Therefore, as a pet owner, you will have to learn how to give your diabetic dog insulin injections. It may be difficult at first, but with practice you will get used to it. Most dog owners get a lot of fulfillment when they know they are helping their dog through insulin injections. Your veterinarian will show you how to give your dog injections at home.


Giving your dog moderate exercise every day will help them prevent the risk of adverse blood sugar levels. To maintain a healthy weight, you can work with your veterinarian to come up with a daily exercise program for your diabetic dog.

Diabetes insipidus (DI) in dogs

Other than the common diabetes in dogs, there is another type of diabetes known as diabetes insipidus, which is a rare condition that affects dogs. It is an uncommon disorder which leads to imbalance of water in the body. Because of this condition, your dog will urinate and drink excessive water in a bid to keep up with water that is lost through urine. DI can occur when the body is unable to produce enough amounts of antidiuretic hormone (ADH). ADH is a hormone which helps to regulate the ability of the body to absorb water from the kidneys. DI can also occur as a result of the body failing to respond to ADH. Without the antidiuretic hormone, your dog cannot conserve water. DI can be caused by tumors of the pituitary gland, trauma, adverse reaction to certain medications and kidney disease. If your dog is diagnosed with this condition, it may require lifetime treatment. Treatment of diabetes insipidus will vary depending on the cause. In case the condition is as a result of inadequate ADH, your veterinarian may prescribe a synthetic ADH for your dog.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.