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Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

Updated on August 10, 2009

When diabetes strikes man's best friend it often leaves its owners in shock. Many people are unaware that pets can get diabetes just as in humans. However, diabetes in dogs is no longer a death sentence. Owners of recently diagnosed diabetic dogs need no to  imagine premature death or years of suffering to come.

 Thanks to the  significant advances of veterinary care, diabetes in dogs has become manageable just as in humans. Dogs with diabetes are often granted a good quality of life , with a positive prognosis and many happy years to come. A good outcome is most likely granted if you are an observant owner and know exactly what KEY symptoms may suggest the beginning of diabetes.

Predisposition to Diabetes in Dogs

It appears that diabetes mostly occurs in middle-aged to senior dogs. The average age in which the disease strikes appears to about eight years or up. Females appear to be the most affected.  Younger dogs are not excluded since forms of juvenile diabetes may affect dogs under one year old.  However, these juvenile forms are  referred to as Diabetes Insipidus  or''water diabetes'', whereas Diabetes Mellitus, the most common form in dogs, is referred to as ''sugar diabetes''. Obese and under-exercised  dogs seem to be the most susceptible.

Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

It is important to note that the first signs of diabetes may be pretty subtle. Do not hesitate to take your dog to the vet if he/she is just not acting right. Following are some symptoms that may suggest diabetes in dogs.

  • Increased thirst, medically known as polydypsia, is a common sign. This symptom often is underestimated since many owners blame it to hot weather, dry winter air, or increased activity.
  • What goes in generally comes out, thus increased urination (medically known as polydypsia) will consequently develop. Your dog may ask out more frequently or may even have accidents in the house.
  • The dog will maintain a good appetite but if the owner keeps good track of weight records he/she will notice that despite good food intake there is weight loss.
  • A poor coat is a visible sign of diabetes. Fur will have lost its healthy glow and appear dull.
  • Lethargy is the symptom that alerts the owner the most and brings to a scheduled vet visit. The dog will not be its active self, may lay around more often and appear to have lost interest in its surroundings.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes may give rise to eye problems such as cataracts, a loss of transparency of the eye with the appearance of crushed ice particles in the eye.  Cataracts may develop in one or both eyes. This occurs because of excess sugars accumulating in the lens of the eye. The only way to get rid of cataracts is cataract surgery. This could end up being pretty expensive.
  • Diabetic neuropathology may appear as well in advanced stages, the owner may notice that the dog develops unexplained weakness in the rear legs. Some people may believe this is part of normal aging.
  • Ketoacidosis is a diabetic complication indicating sugar levels have skyrocketed. This condition requires immediate hospitalization. The dog will exhibit sudden lethargy, reluctance to eat and drink, and in some cases vomit.


The normal blood glucose level in dogs is between 80 and 120. All it takes to diagnose diabetes is a simple blood test and urinalysis.

Please do not hesitate to have your dog seen by a vet if it develops any unexplained symptoms. In some cases, if caught early enough, weight loss along with a good exercise program and diet may suffice. In other cases, careful glucose monitoring (blood glucose curve) requiring several days at the hospital are necessary along with insulin injections.

Dog diabetes can be pretty manageable to treat nowadays, there are accurate diagnostic tests and treatments that grant good quality of life, however, it appears that the attentive, loving, informed and caring owner is the one that plays the key role in preventing the disease from progressing and keeping it to its best manageable levels.


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