Canine and Feline Diabetes

Dog Diabetes

What is Canine Diabetes? 

Diabetes mellitus, the clinical name for "sugar diabetes," is a condition that affects the concentration of glucose, or sugar, in a dog's blood. Diabetes in dogs is most often the result of a dog's body making too little insulin (Type I Diabetes). Much less commonly, dogs may develop Type II Diabetes in which their bodies don't process insulin properly.

Insulin affects how your dog's body uses food to provide energy to cells within the body’s tissues. When your dog eats, food is broken down into very small components. One such component, carbohydrate, is converted into several types of simple sugars, including glucose, that provide energy to the body. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the blood where it travels to cells throughout the body. Inside cells, insulin helps turn glucose into energy. If there's too little insulin available, glucose can't enter cells and instead will build up to a high concentration in the bloodstream. As a result of the body’s cells and tissues being starved from this energy source, a diabetic dog will lose weight and seem perpetually hungry.

Diabetes Risk Factors for Dogs

  • Genetic Predisposition – certain breeds are more prone to diabetes mellitus
  • Middle-aged to older female dogs
  • Obesity
  • Unspayed Females – unspayed females may develop Type II Diabetes and spaying will often result in resolution of the diabetes mellitus

If you think your dog may be at risk, please call our hospital to make an appointment for your dog to be examined and evaluated for diabetes mellitus.

Signs of Canine Diabetes

Knowing the signs of diabetes is the first step in protecting your dog's health. If any of these statements describes your pet, speak with your veterinarian about the possibility of diabetes:

  • Drinks more water than usual (polydipsia)
  • Urinates more frequently (pollakiuria), produces more urine per day (polyuria), or has "accidents" in the house
  • Weight loss despite excessive hunger and desire to eat more (polyphagia)
  • Has cloudy eyes, cataracts or appears to suddenly lose vision

Diagnosis and Detection

When evaluating your dog for diabetes, your veterinarian may ask about these signs and will check your dog's general health to rule out the possibility of other conditions or infections. Diabetes mellitus is only one of many conditions that can cause changes in behavior as well as the above signs. Examination by a veterinarian at least once or twice a year will aid in the early detection and diagnosis of health conditions like diabetes mellitus. At minimum, your veterinarian will test your dog's urine for the presence of glucose and ketones, as well as measure your dog's blood glucose concentration. A diagnosis of diabetes only becomes definite when glucose is inappropriately found in the urine and at a persistently high concentration in the blood.

After the Diagnosis

It can initially be overwhelming when your dog is diagnosed with diabetes mellitus. Diabetes is a condition that you can manage successfully and your VCA veterinarian is here to guide you. Once the diagnosis has been made, ask your veterinarian to schedule a consultation during which you can discuss your questions or concerns. During this appointment, you may want to address the following topics:

  • Diet – determining the best type of food for your dog. This is also the perfect time to address weight loss if your dog is overweight or obese
  • Insulin – how to store and administer it properly
  • Hypoglycemia – how to identify and treat potentially life-threatening low blood sugar
  • At-home monitoring you should perform and when you should alert your veterinarian
  • Recommended veterinary rechecks

We’re here to help! Visit to watch a video on how to give an insulin injection, monitor blood glucose with our eDiary, find expert advice and get support from our interactive community to help manage your dog’s diabetes.

For more information on the types of dog diabetes, please read:

  • Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs
    Diabetes Mellitus is a disease of the pancreas. In simple terms, it is caused by the failure of the pancreas to regulate blood sugar. Click on the link to learn more.
  • Diabetes Insipidus in Dogs
    Diabetes Insipidus is a weak or watery form of diabetes. Although it may cause increased drinking and urination, it is unrelated to elevated blood sugar or a lack of insulin. It is a rare condition in dogs and can only be definitively diagnosed after extensive testing. Click on the link to learn more.

For additional information on testing, monitoring and administering insulin shots, please read:

  • Diabetes in Dogs – Testing and Monitoring
    There are several recommended tests to have done on your dog when Diabetes Mellitus is suspected. Dogs can live happily and healthfully with diabetes if proper routine monitoring is performed by you and your veterinarian. Click on the link to learn more.
  • Diabetes Mellitus – Insulin Treatment in Dogs
    Diabetes Mellitus in dogs can be controlled by administering daily insulin injections. Click on the link to learn more.

To learn more about diabetes in dogs and cats, check our Pet Health Library