Dog Articles - Canine Diabetes

Canine Diabetes

General Info
Diabetes mellitus is characterized by an insulin deficiency, which means the dog’s body cannot properly metabolize sugars, resulting in too much glucose in the dog’s blood and not enough in the dog’s cells. Just as in humans, dogs can develop 2 types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a congenital disease, also referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes. Type 2 dog diabetes, an acquired disease, is a condition in which the dog is reliant on insulin, also known as IDDM (insulin dependent diabetes mellitus). This usually occurs in senior dogs (with an onset usually between seven and nine years of age).

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the dog’s pancreas can no longer secrete the proper level of insulin to regulate the dog’s sugar intake. Along with older dogs, this problem is also more common in large-breed dogs and overweight dogs. It is believed that the abundance of reproductive hormones in non-spayed female dogs can put them at a greater risk as well.

The diagnosis of diabetes is determined by a blood test conducted by your vet. If your dog is exhibiting any of the following symptoms of diabetes, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Your vet will determine whether or not your dog has diabetes and, if so, will help you create a treatment plan to ensure the continuing health of your dog.

-Excessive thirst.
-Excessive urination.
-Excessive hunger.
-Difficulty sleeping.
-Rapid breathing.
-A change in breath smell.
-Abdominal pain.
-Loss of appetite.
-Weight loss.
-Ketoacidosis--an overabundance of ketones in the blood and urine as a result of insulin insufficiency. This is a life threatening condition.


Overweight dogs are more likely to get diabetes. Additionally, obese dogs can develop insulin resistance, which makes insulin therapy less effective. The conditions of diabetic dogs are most effectively stabilized when dogs are at their ideal body weight. Proper body weight varies by breed and also dog to dog. Your vet can help you determine the ideal body weight for your dog.

Exercise is vital both to prevent type II diabetes, and to make the best of diabetes treatment. Exercise maintains a healthy weight and increases blood flow which can improve the way the dog’s body uses insulin, thus further lowering blood glucose levels. Exercise times should occur on a regular basis. Sporadic exercise will cause a rises and falls in blood glucose levels, which can be harmful.

If your dog is not accustomed to regular exercise, talk to your vet about how to develop an exercise program. Out-of-shape dogs should start slow, with short, slower walks, and work up to longer distances and higher paces.

As an animal digests, glucose is released into the bloodstream. A meal heavy in sugar will cause a sudden release of glucose into the blood which a dog with IDDM cannot properly regulate. Instead, dogs with diabetes mellitus should be fed meals containing complex carbohydrates. These foods cause a slow release of glucose over a period of time, thus diabetic dogs should eat plenty of fibers. Also, in order to maintain the correct body weight, these dogs should be fed a diet low in fat.

Insulin Injections
The owners of dogs with IDDM must learn to give insulin injections in the home. It is vital that these injections are given on a regular schedule.

There are basically two types of insulin treatment, short-acting insulins, medium-range insulins, and long-range insulins. They work for 1-4 hours, 4 to 24 hours, and 8 to 28 hours, respectively. Every dog with IDDM has a different insulin requirement, and thus some dogs require twice-daily shots, while others may require only one each day. It usually takes several vet visits and periodic blood tests to adjust to the most beneficial dose of insulin to stabilize the dog’s condition.

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