Just like humans, there are dogs which are unable to make insulin on their own or use it properly. Insulin is a natural hormone produced by the pancreas that helps to transport glucose to various tissues. When a dog eats, food is broken down into various components such as glucose. Glucose is a form of sugar which is one of the main sources of energy. The naturally occurring hormone will help glucose get into the cells for energy, or store it for future use. Without insulin, a dog cannot be able to absorb glucose from the blood This may lead to a build up of glucose in the blood that may lead to a medical condition known as hyperglycemia. If left untreated, hyperglycemia may lead to serious health complications including death. Hyperglycemia is usually the first symptom of diabetes in dogs. If your dog has diabetes, there are some signs and symptoms you will notice in your dog. Your diabetic dog may show signs such as increased thirst, excessive urination, weight loss, dehydration, urinary tract infection, unusual fruity breath, or change in appetite.

In case your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, you should not panic. Diabetes is a medical condition that can be managed through a change in lifestyle such as diet and exercise, and with treatment like insulin for dogs. Most dogs usually have type 1 diabetes, which is a condition where the dog is unable to produce and secrete enough insulin. Dogs with type 1 diabetes will need an insulin therapy so that they can survive. There is no evidence to show what really causes diabetes in dogs, but there are some factors which can contribute to this condition. They include chronic pancreatitis, obesity, autoimmune disease, and certain types of drugs. To avoid the potentially fatal effects of diabetes, you should give your dog insulin injections once or twice every day as recommended by a veterinarian.

Insulin for dogs

Giving your dog insulin injections can be scary at first. However, with practice you will be able to confidently inject your dog every day. If you are not sure, your veterinarian will show you how to use insulin for dogs. You can practice how to load the injection pen with water and injecting it into an apple. The injection pen and needle are usually very small, so that you can comfortably use it to give your dog insulin. Insulin is a delicate substance that you should handle carefully. You should not use excessive motion while handling it or expose it to moisture or heat. Extreme temperatures may destroy the efficacy of insulin for dogs. Make sure you store any bottle of unused insulin inside a refrigerator. In case of open bottles of insulin it should be kept inside a fridge. Avoid freezing the insulin. In case of frozen insulin, you should not give it to your dog. Open insulin can also be stored under room temperature, so long as it is kept away from moisture and heat up to 28 days

Types of insulin for dogs

There are various types of insulin for dogs that can be used to replace the natural hormone in diabetic dogs.

They include:

  • Humulin – This is a man made insulin that is used to treat diabetes mellitus in dogs. Humulin is an intermediate acting insulin, which means that it has a slow onset but can last up to 24 hours. The amount of dosage that your dog needs will be determined by a veterinarian.
  • Lantus– Lantus refers to the brand name of insulin glargine which is injected under the skin of diabetic dogs. Lantus is a long-acting insulin meaning that it can last up to 24 hours. This medication should be injected once per day in diabetic dogs.
  • Novolin– Novolin can be used to manage high blood glucose levels in diabetic dogs. Novolin 70/30 is usually a combination of 70% of rapid-acting insulin and 30% of long acting insulin.
  • Levemir– Levemir is a long acting insulin which is a brand name of insulin detemir. Insulin detemir is used to treat diabetic dogs. Give the exact amount of insulin detemir as it is prescribed by a veterinarian.

How to use

There are various things you need while giving insulin to your diabetic dog. Make sure you are using a new needle and injection pen every time you give insulin to your dog. The needle should be capped until you are ready to load the injection pen with insulin. To mix the insulin, you can roll the insulin bottle in your hands. Avoid shaking the insulin bottle. When it is time for an injection, remove the cap and load it with insulin. You should hold the insulin bottle upside down and insert the needle into the bottle, depressing the air inside the injection pen. Pull back insulin into the injection pen using the plunger until the right level of insulin is reached. If you are wondering where to inject insulin, it is under the back skin or neck. Slightly pinch the back or neck skin and inject the insulin parallel to the fold. After giving insulin to your dog, discard the used needle and injection pen in the right container.


The dosage of insulin depends on the brand, response to insulin treatment among other factors. You should never increase or decrease the dosage without consulting with your doctor. Your veterinarian may need to adjust the dosage depending on blood sugar test results or how your dog responds to insulin therapy. If you missed an insulin injection, you should give it to your dog as soon as you remember. Do not give a double dose to your dog to make up for the missed dose. In case of a drug overdose, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Side effects

Using insulin for dogs may result in undesirable side effects. If you notice any strange behavior in your dog, you should contact your veterinarian. They may need to adjust the insulin dosage or perform glucose tests to your dog.

Side effects include the following:

  • Hypoglycemia
  • Lethargy
  • Increased water consumption
  • Seizure
  • Vomiting
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Death in case of an overdose

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.