Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a chronic condition that affects not only humans but our beloved canine companions as well. Just like in humans, diabetes in dogs requires careful management to ensure a good quality of life. In this blog, we’ll delve into the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and management of dog diabetes.


What is Dog Diabetes?

Dog diabetes is a metabolic condition characterised by the body’s inability to regulate blood sugar levels by not making enough insulin or stopping producing it completely [1]. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream and use it for energy. In diabetic dogs, most commonly the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, which is called Type 1 diabetes.  Less commonly, diabetes can be caused by the body’s cells not responding properly to the insulin, which is the much rarer Type 2 [2]. Both lead to elevated blood sugar levels, causing a range of health issues.

black labrador on sofa

Causes of Dog Diabetes

Genetics: Certain breeds are more predisposed to diabetes, including Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Poodles, and Labradors [1]. Genetics play a significant role in a dog’s susceptibility to developing diabetes.

Obesity: Overweight and obese dogs have a higher risk of developing diabetes [3]. Excess body fat can cause insulin resistance, making it difficult for cells to absorb glucose effectively.

Age: Diabetes is more common in older dogs, typically over the age of 8 [4].

Pancreatic Disease: Damage to the pancreas due to illness, injury, or inflammation can impair insulin production and is believed to be the cause of a quarter of diabetes diagnosis [4].

Hormonal Changes: Increased hormone levels can trigger glucose intolerance and lead to diabetes in dogs. This is a particular risk factor for pregnant dogs [3].

Symptoms of Dog Diabetes

Recognising the signs of diabetes in your dog is crucial for early diagnosis and effective management. Common symptoms include:

Excessive Thirst and Urination: Dogs with diabetes often drink more water and urinate more frequently [3].

Increased Appetite: Despite wanting to eat more, diabetic dogs may also be losing weight [3].

Lethargy and Weakness: A lack of energy and reduced activity levels can be signs of diabetes.

Cloudy Eyes: Diabetes can lead to cataracts, causing the eyes to appear cloudy and the dog to have poorer eyesight.

Recurrent Infections: Diabetic dogs are more prone to infections, particularly urinary tract infections. Your vet may also test them for Cushings Disease, which usually occurs in older dogs where the adrenal gland secretes too much cortisol [3].

dog on bed

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect your dog may have diabetes, consult your Vet for a thorough examination. Diagnosis typically involves blood and urine tests to measure blood sugar levels and assess kidney and liver function. If diabetes is confirmed, treatment usually involves:

Insulin Therapy: Dogs with diabetes often require daily insulin injections to help regulate their blood sugar levels. Your Vet will determine the appropriate insulin type, dosage, and administration schedule. These can then be administered at home as part of your daily routine [5].

Dietary Management: A controlled diet is crucial. Feeding your dog consistent, portion-controlled meals with the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fibre can help manage blood sugar levels. Absolutely no human food titbits and treating should be managed very carefully. [2].

Regular Exercise: Maintaining a regular but moderate exercise routine is essential for managing diabetes, preventing spikes or drops in blood sugar levels and maintaining their weight.

Monitoring: Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, along with frequent check-ups with the Vet, is essential to adjust the treatment plan as needed. Always contact your vet if you see a rapid change in your diabetic pet’s health [2].

Dog diabetes is a manageable condition

Dog diabetes is a manageable condition with proper care and attention. Being vigilant about your dog’s health, providing a healthy diet, regular exercise, and consistent veterinary care can significantly improve the quality of life for your furry friend with diabetes. If you suspect your dog may have diabetes, consult your Vet promptly for a thorough evaluation and appropriate management. Your Vet will support you with your dog’s management plan and, though there is no cure, many dogs live a long, happy life with the condition.


[1] Canin Insulin: About Diabetes

[2]  Blue Cross: Diabetes in Dogs

[3] PetMD: Diabetes Dogs

[4] The Kennel Club: Diabetes in Dogs



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