How Long Can a Diabetic Dog Go Without Insulin

Diabetes in dogs is one of those chronic diseases that can be managed with certain precautions and drugs, particularly insulin.

Insulin goes a long way in providing an excellent quality of life and extending life expectancy for your dog.

However, insulin for dogs is quite expensive, and the prices have been going up in the last five years.

A 100-unit insulin bottle can cost anywhere from $200 to $300.

It also requires regular administration and commitment.

So you might ask yourself, what would happen if you skip a dose, and how long can a diabetic dog go without insulin?

In most cases, a diabetic dog can go anywhere from 1 to 3 days without insulin injection and not enter crisis mode.

This crisis mode is when your dog most likely will experience diabetic ketoacidosis, which we will talk about later.

The exact time highly depends on each individual pet.

Eventually, the symptoms of lack of insulin will start showing and worsen with time, to the point of needing to hospitalize the dog.

In this article, we will discuss diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, and the difference between type 1 and 2 diabetes.

We will also talk about how what can happen if you miss your dog's daily insulin injections and why insulin treatment is so important for diabetic dogs.

how long can a diabetic dog go without insulin

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes in dogs is a permanent endocrine disorder.

The characteristics and effects of canine diabetes are similar to those in humans, but the disorder still differs in certain regards.

There are two types of diabetes in dogs. Both come from diabetes mellitus.

Type 1 diabetes prevents a dog's body from creating enough insulin.

This is a hormone used for regulating the glucose level, and the lack of it means that the organism cannot adequately regulate blood sugar levels.

Since there isn't enough insulin, type 1 diabetes requires insulin injections.

The insulin injections keep your dog from having high blood sugar levels.

Type 2 is also called insulin-resistant diabetes.

In this case, the dog's organism creates insulin, but the cells don't respond to the normal insulin level.

Hence why it refers to insulin resistance.

Your dog is far more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes than Type 2.

In any case, diabetes is not that common, but according to statistics, the number of dogs suffering from this disorder is somewhere between one in 500 and one in 100.

Diabetes mostly affects middle-aged and senior dogs, usually after the age of 5 or 6.

The dog can be born with diabetes, but these cases are quite rare.

Overweight dogs are more likely to have diabetes as well.

Why Is Insulin for Dogs so Important?

Since the lack of insulin in your dog's body is the problem, injecting insulin is the only way to manage this condition.

Therefore, insulin is the only adequate treatment for a dog with diabetes, and there are different types of it.

While additional exercise and weight loss will improve the quality of your diabetic dog's life, insulin will be the main medication used to maintain the condition.

Appropriately adjusting the diet for a diabetic dog can help a little further with managing the condition.

You can give insulin to dogs as a syringe shot, but recently, insulin pens have become very popular among pet owners.

When using a syringe, you'll need to buy a box of them and a bottle of insulin, then inject it the standard way, while with an insulin pen, you'll be applying a needle tip, choosing a dosage, and then just press a button.

In the past, vets tried to prescribe some other medications, such as oral hyperglycemia, but they proved ineffective as virtually all dogs have the insulin-dependent type of diabetes.

Obligations That Come with Insulin

Insulin needs to be administered twice a day.

After your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, it will take some time until the vet is able to prescribe an adequate dosage of insulin, and there's going to be some trial and error.

You or your vet will run tests on the dog's glucose level several times a day or a week in order to see the reaction of your dog's organism to a particular dosage.

The positive thing is that once a good dosage is established, the dog won't need the check-ups as often.

Insulin needs to be administered around the same time.

This means creating a schedule around your dog's injections.

If you have frequent business trips, irregular working hours, or stay overtime often, you would need to think about the alternatives for keeping up with the schedule.

You can ask a friend, family member, or pet sitter to administer it to your dog when you are unable.

Some dog owners feel anxious about giving a shot to their dog, especially because the dog is not thrilled about it either.

But giving injections to dogs is fairly simple, and most people get used to it very quickly; it becomes a regular routine for them and their pets.

what happens if you skip your dog's insulin shot

What Happens If You Skip Your Dog's Insulin Shot?

With such a rigorous schedule in place, missing an insulin shot for your dog can happen occasionally.

It is natural for pet owners to wonder what will happen in such cases.

The answer is – not much (at first).

In a few days, your dog might have symptoms that they had when they were first diagnosed with diabetes.

The symptoms are excessive appetite, excessive thirst and drinking a lot of water, excessive urination, and weakness.

They will get worse/stronger with time.

If you miss a dosage of insulin, it's best to contact your vet and ask for advice.

The vet will tell you when to administer your dog's next injection.

What Happens If You Don't Give Your Dog Insulin At All?

Not giving your dog insulin will, in most cases, be like not treating diabetes at all.

This can affect the dog's life expectancy and significantly decrease their life quality.

Besides less serious effects like excessive urination, thirst, and appetite, your dog will experience significant weight loss.

On top of that, your dog can experience what is called diabetic ketoacidosis.

This means your dog's blood sugar levels have gone too high, and there are too many ketone bodies.

Living with diabetes can impair a dog's eyesight, and they can develop cataracts and even go blind very quickly.

Your dog can also completely lose appetite, feel weakness and anxiety, and catch other diseases that are not related to diabetes but result from a dog's organism having to cope with the constant lack of insulin and weakened system.

A diabetic dog's life expectancy will depend on various factors, such as breed, age, general health, weight, and lifestyle.

In general, dogs with diabetes can live (uncomfortably) anywhere from two months to two years if not given insulin.

Can you give your dog too much insulin?

Yes, you can. The opposite of diabetic ketoacidosis will happen.

Your dog will have too low blood sugar and become hypoglycemic.

This is a fatal condition, and your dog must receive proper treatment from a vet.

How Long Can a Diabetic Dog Go Without Insulin: FAQs

How many times a day can you give a dog insulin?

The majority of dogs will require insulin injections twice daily, however, occasionally a patient turns out for whom a single dose is extremely long-acting and once-a-day insulin is effective.

If your woofer needs to take insulin twice a day, time the injections as near to 12 hours apart as you can.

How quickly does insulin lower blood sugar in dogs?

The peak insulin effect, which occurs 5-8 hours after an insulin injection, is the time when a dog is most likely to have hypoglycemia.

However, the effects might not be visible. Therefore, lab testing will be required to determine whether the medication is working.

How much insulin can a dog have in a day?

The recommended starting dose of Vetsulin for dogs is 0.5 IU insulin per kilogram of body weight.

This dosage needs to be given once a day, either soon before or right after a meal.

How Long Can a Diabetic Dog Go Without Insulin: Before You Go

Diabetes is a chronic illness that affects dogs and requires daily administration of insulin, or your dog's quality of life and long-term health will be seriously affected.

If a diabetic dog skips an insulin shot, in most cases, nothing serious will happen in the first few days.

Eventually, the symptoms will become more visible as your pup's life quality decreases. Your vet will most likely advise you to give the dog their next dosage at the regular time.

Refusing to give your dog insulin altogether will have significant long-term health effects.

Your dog's symptoms will reappear and get worse with time.

After a while, the consequences will get more serious; the dog's health will quickly deteriorate, and they will likely need to be hospitalized.


Kelly works as a veterinary technician in Austin, TX as well as regular animal rescue volunteer. She's been an animal lover and dog owner since childhood, and has worked in different dog related fields over the last twenty years. Currently she lives with three dogs and a cat.