What is Dog Diabetes?

Canine and Feline Diabetes Overview

Diabetes mellitus, the clinical name for "sugar diabetes," is a condition that affects the concentration of glucose, or sugar, in a dog's blood. Diabetes in dogs is most often the result of a dog's body making too little insulin (Type I Diabetes). Much less commonly, dogs may develop Type II Diabetes in which their bodies don't process insulin properly.

Insulin affects how your dog's body uses food. When your dog eats, food is broken down into very small components its body can use. One component, carbohydrate, is converted into several types of simple sugars, including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the blood, where it travels to cells throughout the body. Inside cells, insulin helps turn glucose into fuel. If there's too little insulin available, glucose can't enter cells and can build up to a high concentration in the bloodstream. As a result, a diabetic dog may seem hungry constantly, but will lose weight because its cells can't absorb glucose.

Diabetes Risk Factors for Dogs
  • Genetic Predisposition–certain breeds are more prone to diabetes
  • Middle-aged to older female dogs
  • Obesity
  • Unspayed Females–unspayed females may develop Type II Diabetes and spaying will often result in resolution of the diabetes

If you think your dog may be at risk, make an appointment today to get your dog checked for diabetes.

Diagnosis and Detection

Diabetes is one of many conditions that can affect your dog and cause visible changes in behavior and other signs. That's why it is important that your dog be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian at least once a year or more frequently, if your veterinarian advises.

Dog Diabetes Symptoms
Knowing the signs of diabetes is the first step in protecting your dog's health. If any of these statements describes your pet, speak with your veterinarian about the possibility of diabetes:
  • Drinks more water than usual (polydipsia)
  • Urinates more frequently, produces more urine per day, or has "accidents" in the house (polyuria)
  • Always acts hungry (polyphagia), but maintains or loses weight
  • Has cloudy eyes, cataracts or appears to suddenly lose vision

When evaluating your dog for diabetes, your veterinarian may ask about these signs and will check your dog's general health to rule out the possibility of other conditions or infections. In addition, your veterinarian will test your dog's urine for the presence of glucose and ketones and, if indicated, will then measure your dog's blood glucose concentration. A diagnosis of diabetes only becomes definite when glucose is found in the urine and at a persistently high concentration in the blood.

After the Diagnosis
It can initially be overwhelming when your dog is diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that you can manage successfully and your VCA veterinarian is here to help. Once the diagnosis has been made, ask your veterinarian to schedule a specific "diabetes appointment" during which you can discuss all of your questions or concerns. During this appointment, make sure to address the following topics with your VCA veterinarian:
  • Diet–determining the best type of food for your dog. This is also the perfect time to address weight loss if your dog is overweight or obese
  • Insulin–how to store and administer it properly
  • Hypoglycemia–how to identify and treat potentially life-threatening low blood sugar
  • At-home monitoring you should perform and when you should alert your veterinarian
  • Recommended veterinary rechecks
For more information on the types of dog diabetes, please read:
  • Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs
    Diabetes Mellitus is a disease of the pancreas. In simple terms, it is caused by the failure of the pancreas to regulate blood sugar. Click on the link to learn more.

  • Diabetes Insipidus in Dogs
    Diabetes Insipidus is a weak or watery form of diabetes. Although it may cause increased drinking and urination, it is unrelated to elevated blood sugar or a lack of insulin. It is a rare condition in dogs and can only be definitively diagnosed after extensive testing. Click on the link to learn more.
For additional information on testing, monitoring and administering insulin shots, please read:
  • Diabetes in Dogs – Testing and Monitoring
    There are several recommended tests to have done on your dog when Diabetes Mellitus is suspected. Dogs can live happily and healthfully with diabetes if proper routine monitoring is performed by you and your veterinarian. Click on the link to learn more.

  • Diabetes Mellitus – Insulin Treatment in Dogs
    Diabetes Mellitus in dogs can be controlled by administering daily insulin injections. Click on the link to learn more.

To learn more about diabetes in dogs and cats, check our Pet Health Library.

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