10 Signs of Diabetes in Dogs - featured image; dog with blind eyes

Diabetes in dogs is similar to what humans experience. With Type I Diabetes, your dog’s body isn’t producing insulin, the hormone responsible for converting carbs and protein into glucose. With Type II Diabetes, the dog’s body still produces insulin but doesn’t respond to it properly.

Both types of canine diabetes prevent energy conversion from glucose in a dog’s muscles and organs. Type I Diabetes can occur in dogs of any age, while Type II is more frequently seen in dogs who are overweight or elderly. Here are the ten most common signs of diabetes in dogs that you should watch out for.

10 Signs that Indicate Possible Diabetes in Dogs

1. Anorexia

If diabetes in dogs goes untreated, the dog may go from eating everything to wanting nothing. This may also be followed by vomiting and abdominal pain, which results in serious eating disorders (1). It's more likely with diabetic dogs with pancreatitis (2).

2. Coat and Skin Changes

When your dog’s body isn’t converting and absorbing essential nutrients, the coat and skin will lack the usual shine (3). The dog's hair may start thinning and even fall out completely. The dog's skin may show signs of dandruff or dry, scaly skin (4).

3. Depression and Listlessness

With both Type I and Type II dog diabetes, the electrolyte balance will be off, and the steady decline of various important nutrients like sodium, phosphorus, and potassium means your dog’s nerves are not responding properly (5).

Your dog may become depressed and lethargic and completely lose interest in their favorite activities, including going for walks, rides, playtime, and bonding time with the owner (6). The lack of a stable glucose supply takes a severe toll on a dog’s body and overall wellness, which may also cause listlessness (7).

4. Eye Changes

About 80% of diabetic dogs face the risk of developing cataracts (8). The longer a dog's diabetes goes untreated, the worse the eye complication will become.

When you look at your dog’s eyes, they may appear cloudy. You might also see a reflective sheen of sorts. As long as your vet provides ongoing treatment for cataract inflammation, dogs can follow their nose as a primary sense and adapt.

5. Hunger

Hunger is strongly affected by both types of diabetes in dogs (9). If not anorexia, then your dog may seem to be ready to eat everything in the house and then some.

The imbalance of insulin means that the glucose supply isn’t being delivered to the dog's brain, so the brain doesn’t get the signal about receiving food (10). The dog will feel like they're starving and will try to eat at every possible juncture.

6. Urination

Frequent urination is a common sign of canine diabetes, and you will see your pooch wanting to go out more often to pee (11). This exposes the dog to urinary tract infections, and they may start getting potty accidents in the house, even when they've been housebroken (12).

Because a dog's kidneys cannot filter sugars fast enough, they leak into the urine, pulling water and causing frequent urination. That, in turn, may result in dehydration and increased thirst.

7. Thirst

Your dog is likely to be constantly at the water dish. Because diabetes results in frequent urination, your pooch feels constantly thirsty and drinks more water, trying to keep up the fluid intake in the body (13).

Excess glucose is carried out of a dog’s body in the urine, altering normal urine concentration and increasing the number of times your dog needs to pee.

8. Vomiting

Dogs will throw up from time to time when they drink too fast, for example (14). But when diabetes goes untreated longer, the enzymes malfunction, creating acidic blood. This is an emergency situation called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).

Other symptoms related to vomiting in dogs with diabetes include physical weakness, an odd breath odor, and panting (15). If you see your pet vomiting combined with poor appetite and lethargy, go to the nearest veterinary hospital immediately.

9. Weakness or Stiffness

You may notice your pooch struggling to get up or lie down. Sometimes, the dog seems to be limping, stumbling, or standing oddly. Diabetes can lead to these obvious weird body and movement symptoms. The dog may have progressive neuropathy or muscle weakness because of the lack of glucose supply (16).

10. Weight Loss

Diabetes is more likely to be seen in overweight dogs (17). However, paradoxically, even with a normal appetite, diabetes may sometimes cause weight loss in dogs (18). This may be gradual or very sudden. Your dog’s brain isn’t telling the rest of the dog's body about glucose levels. That means that the body breaks down muscle and fat, using those proteins for energy instead of calories from food.

Causes and Diagnosis of Diabetes in Dogs

The most common cause of diabetes in dogs is a genetic predisposition (20). The following breeds are those most commonly diagnosed with this disorder:

  • Beagle
  • Carin Terrier
  • Dachshund
  • Keeshond
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Poodle
  • Samoyed

Additionally, overweight dogs or those receiving a low-protein and high-carbohydrate diet are likely to suffer from diabetes as well due to a disbalance of glucose.

To diagnose a dog with diabetes, a veterinarian needs the animal's detailed medical history, as much as you can gather up to the date you noticed changes. A blood count, urinalysis, and chemical profile should give them enough for an initial diagnosis and a treatment program.

If the vet suspects secondary complications, they may do an x-ray and ultrasound. This will show them if the dog has bladder stones and/or inflammation in the pancreas.

Treatment for Diabetic Dogs

After testing based on the signs of dog diabetes, your veterinarian will prescribe a treatment suited to your individual pet's condition. Initial management is difficult because it takes a while to discover the best way of adjusting the balance in a dog’s body.

Dogs who are overweight, for example, will be put on a weight loss plan and may take upward of 4 months before achieving a healthier weight. Even then, there’s ongoing maintenance using a specific diabetic dog diet. Your vet will give you a reasonable guideline for expectations and recommend a diabetic diet and exercise plan and specific dog foods for weight loss to fix the problem.

Canines with Type 1 diabetes need insulin injections. They will also require a dietary change. Those with Type 2 diabetes usually have their condition controlled with diet and weight loss programs.

During treatment:

  • Do NOT change your dog’s food suddenly. Consult with a vet, and do it gradually.
  • Do NOT stray from the dietary plan. This was created as a lifestyle change that helps manage a dog’s diabetes.
  • Do NOT stop observing your pet. When a dog seems better, it’s easy to become less diligent, but dogs with diabetes need careful, continuous observation. Your vet may ask you to take glucose tests and regular weigh-ins and report them.

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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.