Vet's Blog > Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes in Dogs

Like human dog too get diabetes. As in Nepal  diabetes is common among people especially in old and obese people same is the scenario in dogs case. In Kathmandu most dog owner are unaware of this fact that dog too can get diabetes and they get astonished when their pet diagnosed with this one.

One out of every 300 dogs is diagnosed with diabetes.

Although diabetes can’t be cured, it can be managed very successfully.

Diabetes is a chronic  and serious, but manageable condition for dogs. Diabetes mellitus is a disease state by which the body suffers from either an absolute shortage of insulin (Type I or insulin dependent), or from an incorrect response from the cells to the insulin that is being produced, a condition termed insulin resistance (Type II or insulin resistant). Both of these conditions will prevent the muscles and organs from converting glucose to energy and will result in excessive amounts of glucose in the blood, which is also referred to as hyperglycemia.


Diabetes is a disorder of carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism caused by an absolute or relative insulin deficiency. Metabolism refers to how the body digests and uses food for growth and energy; this process is largely dependent on a sufficient amount of insulin in the body.


Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas and released into the cells in response to the digestive conversion of carbohydrates and protein into glucose in the bloodstream. Much of the food that is ingested is broken down into glucose, a type of sugar in the blood and one of the body’s main sources of energy. Appropriate insulin function will trigger the liver and muscles to take up glucose from the blood cells, converting it to energy.


In Type I diabetes, the pancreas has stopped producing insulin entirely. Affected dogs are dependent on daily insulin injections for maintaining blood sugar balance (insulin dependent diabetes mellitus – IDDM). This is the most commonly diagnosed type of diabetes in dogs.


In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas can still produce insulin, but the body cannot adequately respond to it. While the disease process is not exactly the same in dogs as it is in people, dogs can develop insulin resistant diabetes (IRD.)


An affected dog will be hungry a lot of the time. Since glucose is not making it to the brain, glucose levels in the brain are too low for the brain to register that it is receiving food. Because insulin is not giving the muscles and organs the signal to convert glucose to energy, the excess glucose in the blood will be carried out of the body in urine instead of being used for energy and there will be a concurrent lack of energy. The glucose ends up in the urine, where it interferes with normal urine concentration and leads to an increase in urination. The pet becomes dehydrated as a result of the abnormal water loss, so there is also increased thirst. The liver is adversely affected by this condition, as are the eyes and kidneys. Affected pets are also at increased risk for systemic infections, dental disease, and cataracts.


IDDM diabetes can occur at any age. IRD diabetes is seen more frequently in older, obese, and desexed dogs, though it can also occur at any age. So in short insulin is produced in pancreas and breakdown of carbohydrate and protein is glucose . glucose is needed by the the cell for the energy. Insulin is needed for glucose to enter into the cell.In other word insulin is like a key that opens the lock of cell for the glucose to enter the cell.If there is no or less insulin production then glucose lever in cell increase , condition known as hyperglycemia .

Although diabetes can’t be cured, it can be managed very successfully.

Type 2 diabetes is usually due to obesity and eating too many carbohydrates. In type 2 diabetes, there is plenty of insulin production, but the body becomes resistant to it because there is too much sugar coming in. This type of diabetes is reversible in some cases. Type 2 diabetes is the most common in people (90% of human diabetics have Type 2) But dogs are different. Most diabetic dogs have Type 1 diabetes. And it’s a lot more serious. Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas fails to produce insulin properly. This means glucose can’t get into the body’s cells to be used for energy. It’s quite dangerous, and it usually requires lifelong treatment with insulin shots.

Female dogs can also develop temporary insulin resistance while in heat or pregnant.


What are the sign of diabetes?


Early signs that the owner should notice in his dog is

  1. Frequent urination – diabetic dogs drink a lot and and urinated more often to excreate the excess glucose from the body
  2. Weight loss. The dog can lose weight despite eating normal or even more than normal portion. This is because the dog isn’t efficiently converting nutrients from its food.
  3. Increased appetite. The dog can be very hungry all the time because the body’s cells aren’t getting all the glucose they need, even though the dog is eating a normal amount.
  4. Increased level of blood sugar in blood during the dog’s blood test.
  5. Glucose in the urine



In the advanced state of diabetes the dog shows the sign more prominently

  1. The dog refuse to eat  and shows sign of anorexia – complete loss of appetite
  2. Lethargy and depression
  3. Vomiting
  4. Cataracts leading to loss of vision
  5. Worsening weight loss
  6. Recurrent infections


In most of the time Development of Ketoacidosis is occurred and it is a  life threatening complication of unregulated diabetes, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a metabolic acidosis caused by the breakdown in the liver of fat to ketones in response to starvation.

  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse
  • Coma
  • Death

If untreated then there is some serious consequences like kidney failure urinary track infection enlarged  liver, ketoacidosis( in which there is sweet smell breath )

How diabetes is diagnosed?

Your vet will take a detailed history and do some physical examination to diagnose the condition. Besides this can do simple tests to check for diabetes, including testing for excessive glucose (sugar) in the blood and urine. Blood tests can also show other indications of diabetes, such as high liver enzymes and electrolyte imbalances. These test are sufficient to Diagnose the disease.  In severe cases, urine test results may also show evidence of abnormally high levels of ketone bodies — water-soluble compounds produced as a by-product of fatty acid metabolism in the liver and kidney.

The sooner  diabetes is diagnosed and treatment begun, the better chance the pet will live their normal life. So like human, it is advisable to routinely check blood of your dog.


What are the risk factor for diabetes?

  1. Age. While diabetes can occur at any age, it mostly occurs in middle-aged to senior Most dogs who develop it are age 5 or older when diagnosed.
  2. Chronic or repeated  pancreatitis. Chronic or repeated pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can eventually cause extensive damage to that organ, resulting in diabetes.
  3. Obesity. Obesity contributes to insulin resistance and is a risk factor for pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes.
  4. Steroid medications. These can cause diabetes when used long-term.
  5. Cushing’s disease. With Cushing’s disease, the body overproduces steroids internally, so this condition also can cause diabetes.
  6. Other health conditions. Some autoimmune disorders and viral diseases are also thought to possibly trigger diabetes.
  7. Genetics. Diabetes can occur in any breed or mixed-breed, and it seems genetics can play a role in either increased or reduced risk.
  8. Diabetes occurs in female dogs twice as often as male dogs.

Besides certain breed are predisposed to diabetes like Dachshund  and pug.

What are the treatment option?


There is no permanent cure for the diabetes only control for the sugar level in blood. However the Vet will prescribe insulin which should be given twice daily in the right time and right dose along with dietary management and exercise. This will bring the dog’s glucose level in normal range. The owner of the diabetic dog need a lot of dedication and perseverance as lifelong insulin shot may necessary .Your veterinarian will teach you the right method and you can give it yourself daily. Take your diabetic dog for frequent veterinary checkups and check your dog’s blood sugar regularly Your veterinarian will recommend the best type of diet for your diabetic dog. Usually this will include some good-quality protein, as well as fiber and complex carbohydrates that will help to slow absorption of glucose. Your vet may also recommend a diet with relatively low fat content. Consistently feed your diabetic dog the same type of food at the same time of day. To help avoid sudden spikes or drops in glucose levels, it is especially important that diabetic dogs maintain a moderate but consistent exercise routine. If there is abnormal or unusual sign shown by your dog contact your vet immediately as it can has some serious consequence.


If your dog has diabetes it is not the end of the world. With proper management with daily insulin shots he can live normal life and you can enjoy the quality time with your beloved friend.



Written by Dr Pratik Man Pradhan B.V.Sc &A.H

Chief Veterinarian

Mount Everest Kennel Club