Diabetes mellitus in dogs is a fairly common disorder. Did you know dogs can develop diabetes mellitus, just as we can? This disease is mostly seen in dogs of five years and older.

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How Can You Recognize A Diabetic Dog?

Be alerted when you notice the following signs in your dog:

  • Extreme thirst and increase in water intake.
  • More frequent urinating and having accidents in the house.
  • Unexplained weight loss in a short amount of time despite having a ravenous appetite.
  • Your dog appears weak and lethargic or depressed.
  • Your dog shows signs of abdominal pain.

Causes Of Diabetes Mellitus In Dogs

Genetic predisposition and hormonal abnormalities play a role. It also appears that female dogs are twice as like to develop diabetes mellitus as compared to male dogs. These factors you cannot control. However, there are environmental conditions that you can manage in reducing the risk.

Obesity and poor nutrition are predisposing factors for the onset of canine diabetes.

What Is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes Mellitus is caused by a damaged pancreas. The pancreas is a small organ located near the stomach. Two types of pancreas cells exist: one produces enzymes that help your dog digest his food; the other cell types (beta-cells) produce the hormone insulin. Overweight dogs are at risk for developing canine diabetes A normal functioning pancreas produces the proper amounts of insulin to control sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone that moves sugar from the blood to your dog’s cells so it can be used as an energy source.

dog obesity

Obese dogs are at risk
just as obese humans!

Sugar levels change because of the food you eat and the physical exercise you perform. With a malfunctioning pancreas, the level of blood glucose is not regulated well because of an absence or reduction in the insulin activity. Insulin is like a gatekeeper that can open the door for glucose to enter body cells.

As glucose can’t be used by the body cells these get deprived of energy. In a survival response of the body, it starts to utilize stored fat and protein as alternative energy sources. This explains why your dog wants to eat more and still looses weight.

As glucose cannot enter the cells, the glucose blood level gets very high. Your dog’s body tries to get rid of it by excreting it in the urine. As glucose attracts water your dog’s urine volume will be increased as a result of this. This explains why he needs to go out more and it provides a good excuse for the accidents he perhaps had in the house. With all this urine loss your dog dehydrates. This explains his thirst and large water intake.

Canine diabetes is potentially a life-threatening condition. It cannot be cured, though it can be managed and your dog can live many happy years.

Diagnosing Diabetes Mellitus In Dogs

First thing is getting your dog to a veterinarian for a diagnosis!

Your vet will ask you about the classical signs and symptoms (weight loss despite having a huge appetite, increased water consumption and urination). Then a blood and urine test will confirm or rule out diabetes mellitus.

Blood Test

The normal level of blood glucose in dogs is elevated from about 100 mg/dl to 400-800 mg/dl. A healthy dog will also have increased blood glucose directly after having enjoyed his meal, though this usually won’t exceed 300 mg/dl.

Urine Test

Normal (healthy) dogs do not secrete glucose via urine. Glucose not needed for energy is put into body stores. Only when blood levels are dangerously high the kidneys will allow glucose to leave the body via the urine.

Treatment Of Diabetes Mellitus In Dogs

If the symptoms and signs you noticed are indeed explained by canine diabetes, then your vet will guide you in the process.

Your veterinarian will most likely mention the following factors and prescribe a combination of these for your individual situation. Remember, all dogs are different and sick dogs are even more different.


Feed consistently as it helps to stabilize your dog’s metabolism. So feed the same food in the same amounts and at regular intervals. Usually, your vet will recommend you a prescription diet that was specifically designed for dogs suffering from diabetes mellitus.

This diabetic dog food will be rich in fiber. Fiber is key in managing this condition as it makes your dog’s body more responsive to insulin, thereby lowering the required amounts of this hormone.

Fiber modifies digestion and absorption time so carbohydrates are released more slowly into the bloodstream. This way the blood sugar peak that usually appears after enjoying a meal will be flattened and spread out.


Obesity is an important risk factor for the development of canine diabetes. Exercise is important to maintain (or reach) a healthy body weight and body condition. It should not sound strange that in some cases weight loss can actually lead to the resolution of the problem.

When your dog is obese ánd suffers from canine diabetes then your first priority is to get the blood sugar levels stabilized. When you have reached that goal then start a weight loss program. Just don’t change your dog’s food as it may destabilize his metabolism. The fiber-enhanced dog food I mentioned earlier is also suitable for weight loss as fibers reduce the caloric density of the diet and contribute to a feeling of fullness.


Medication can be administered either via insulin shots or as an oral drug. When your dog needs insulin injections these need to be given after he’s had his meal. The preferred method is to feed your dog twice daily and administer the insulin hormone directly afterward. Make sure you get full instructions from your veterinarian as to how to inject your dog.


As consistency is key you want to control as many factors as possible. Reduce stress factors to stabilize your dog’s life. Perhaps this means that your dog must be living indoors as this is a more controlled environment.

The goal of this treatment is to give your dog a stable life and keep him happy. You have to look upon this as part of your dog’s daily routine. It requires your personal commitment as it may take some time to find the best approach for your furry friend. But you know it’s all worth it when you can enjoy many happy years together.

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