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Symptoms of diabetes in dogs

Symptoms of diabetes in dogs

Dogs and their owners share everything: games, affectionate moments, cuddles, loyalty… They may even have the same diseases! As a matter of fact, while it is common knowledge that humans can suffer from diabetes – a chronic pathology characterised by an excess of glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia) – few also know that dogs can be affected as well. In fact, it is one of the most common hormonal conditions in older dogs. Recognizing the warning signs and the main symptoms of diabetes in dogs is therefore essential in order to set up a treatment that will allow the dog to live a normal life. But then, what are the causes of canine diabetes? What are the main signs and symptoms of diabetes in dogs? Is it possible to treat canine diabetes or pre-diabetes? And which dogs are most at risk for diabetes? Let’s take a closer look.

Canine diabetes: definition, causes and origins

Like their human counterparts, dogs can be confronted with diabetes mellitus, more commonly known as diabetes. This condition in dogs is very similar to what we humans suffer from. It is a dysfunction of the body, that can no longer control the glucose levels in the blood.

In fact, in mammals, and especially in dogs, glucose is the body’s fuel. It is, in a way, thanks to glucose that the cells of the dog’s body can function. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, plays the role of glucose regulator: it transports it in the body to provide it to the cells that need it. Insulin then has the task of ensuring that blood glucose is absorbed by the animal’s cells. In other words, without insulin, glucose cannot reach the cells of the dog’s body.

Diabetes mellitus occurs when the dog’s body is no longer able to process glucose in a normal way. The body, in order to cope with this situation, will make several decisions that can impact the dog’s health.

There are three types of diabetes in dogs:

Insulin-deficiency diabetes or type 1 diabetes. This type of diabetes is characterised by a failure of the dog’s pancreas. It does not produce enough insulin to process glucose. This is the most common type of diabetes in dogs today. The dog has a deficiency of Beta cells, which are responsible for the production of insulin. It is most often the result of a genetic disorder.

Insulin-resistance diabetes or type 2 diabetes. This is when the cells develop resistance to insulin. Insulin no longer does its job, causing the pancreas to produce more insulin and eventually run out. This type of diabetes is often found in older dogs.

Type 3 diabetes. Most often, this diabetes is the consequence of the evolution of a type 2 diabetes. It is mainly characterised by a low insulin level. The pancreas, when exhausted, is no longer able to produce insulin. This type of diabetes can be the consequence of certain diseases affecting the pancreas (inflammation, fibrosis, etc.).


There are many causes and origins of diabetes in dogs. Most often, diabetes is of genetic origin: certain breeds of dog are more exposed to it. However, type 2 diabetes is often related to the animal’s diet and lifestyle.

The different symptoms of diabetes in dogs

The signs and symptoms of canine diabetes are quite similar to the symptoms that humans develop when they have diabetes. It is important to know how to recognise them in order to set up an adequate treatment to preserve your dog’s health.

More frequent and excessive urination

The first typical symptom of canine diabetes is an increase in the frequency of urination. This is what veterinarians call polyuria. It is one of the main causes of visits to the veterinarian. This condition is also accompanied by an increase in the amount of liquid urinated by the dog.

Polyuria is mainly caused by the increase of blood sugar (there is more glucose in the blood). With the pancreas and insulin no longer fulfilling their role as glucose regulators, the only way for the body to get rid of it is through the urine, resulting in more frequent and larger urinations.

Excessive thirst

This symptom is directly related to the first symptom described above. Because the dog is expelling excess glucose from the bloodstream via the urine, it needs to hydrate more.

For the dog, polydipsia (excessive thirst) becomes a way to hydrate, but also to excrete glucose more quickly via urination.

Insatiable appetite

A diabetic dog may also suffer from polyphagia, or in other words, an insatiable appetite.

Many veterinarians associate this symptom with insulin deficiency. Because of the lack of insulin, which must supply the cells with carbohydrates, the body perceives a lack of energy. This leads the dog to think that it is lacking in food, which causes it to eat more than normal.

Weight loss despite normal feeding

If a dog’s weight loss can be caused by many diseases, such as gastrointestinal disease or cancer, diabetes can also be the cause.

Indeed, to compensate for the lack of insulin and a generalised state of weakness, the dog’s body can then draw energy from its muscles and fats. The proteins stored in the body then replace the glucose, which ultimately leads to weight loss.

Loss of vision and the development of cataracts

According to many veterinarians, up to 80% of dogs with diabetes mellitus eventually develop cataracts, which lead to vision loss and even blindness.

Normally, the cornea absorbs glucose from the eye fluid and converts the excess into sorbitol. However, in dogs with diabetes, the large amount of glucose in the bloodstream causes the cornea to distort, which eventually causes the lens to become opaque, which decreases vision and can even lead to blindness.

General fatigue and loss of interest in activities

As in humans with diabetes, a dog with canine diabetes will experience a general state of fatigue. In addition, it will show less interest in certain activities that it used to enjoy, such as walking or playing.

This general fatigue is due to the fact that glucose remains trapped in the blood and can no longer supply the dog’s muscles. As a result, the dog faces a loss of energy. Added to this is the fact that dogs with diabetes have muscle weakness, which inevitably leads to pain during exercise.

Treating diabetes in dogs

The appearance of any of the symptoms related to canine diabetes must imperatively lead to a veterinary consultation. The veterinarian, thanks to a blood test and a urine analysis, will be able to confirm or deny the diagnosis.

It is essential to adapt the diet and lifestyle of a dog suffering from diabetes. This means reducing its food intake. Indeed, overweight and obesity are the main risk factors for the development of canine diabetes. It should also be encouraged to play and exercise.

Once a dog is diagnosed with canine diabetes, a lifetime of treatment is required. As in humans with Type 1 diabetes, intravenous insulin injections will regulate the dog’s blood sugar levels.

This injection should be done every day, after meals, in order to balance the animal’s blood sugar level. The veterinarian can then train the dog’s owner to give this injection, which is generally very well accepted by the dog. Regular follow-up with the veterinarian will then allow for adjustment of the insulin dose administered.

Which dogs are most at risk for diabetes?

Not all dogs are equal when it comes to diabetes. In fact, diabetes occurs in dogs that are considered “at risk”.

The main risk factors for the development of canine diabetes are:
Age: most dogs diagnosed with diabetes are between six and ten years old

Gender: Female dogs are more likely to have diabetes than their male counterparts

Breed: Although diabetes can affect all breeds, scientific research has shown that some breeds may be more affected by diabetes, including Carlins, Fox Terriers, Dachshunds and Beagles.










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