What Are the Symptoms of a Dog With Diabetes?

Image of a lethargic-looking golden retriever on a bed with white bedding
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Has your dog recently been diagnosed with diabetes, or do you think that they have one of the classic symptoms of diabetes, such as drinking a lot of water?

Your vet can run blood work to see if your dog does have diabetes as well as help you set up a routine for managing their condition.

This article will explain the common signs that are seen in a dog with diabetes and what you need to do so your dog lives a long healthy life.

What is Diabetes in a Dog?

Diabetes in dogs is very similar to diabetes in people—diabetes mellitus, which is the dysregulation of the body’s blood sugar. Your dog’s pancreas produces insulin in response to high levels of sugar in their body. In a diabetic dog, they do not produce enough insulin, or there is another concurrent problem where their body does not react to the insulin appropriately, resulting in very high blood sugar.

Some common reasons that dogs are brought to the vet is that they’re losing weight, drinking more water, or urinating more. You may even notice some hair coat changes or changes even within the eye, such as cataracts developing.

Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

So what are the symptoms of a dog with diabetes? The following symptoms should be investigated as they could be indicators that your dog has diabetes:

  • Change in appetite
  • Excessive thirst/increase in water consumption
  • Weight loss
  • Increased urination
  • Unusually sweet-smelling or fruity breath
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting
  • Cataract formation, blindness
  • Chronic skin infections

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s best to take them to your vet. They can run blood work to see if what is causing these symptoms is because they are diabetic or if there is another condition causing them.

Diagnosing Diabetes in Your Dog

Your veterinarian will do a simple blood test to check your dog for diabetes. They can also check their urine for sugar too. When the levels get so high in the blood, it gets dumped into a dog’s urine to help remove the sugar from their body.

Risk Factors for Diabetes

There are many different things that can put your dog at a higher risk of having diabetes. These are:

  • Age – older dogs more commonly have diabetes
  • Gender – unspayed female dogs have a higher chance of developing diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Overweight
  • Taking long-term steroids
  • Cushing’s disease

How Do You Manage Dog Diabetes?

In general, the management of diabetes in dogs entails a number of different aspects.

  1. Daily insulin injections: A diabetic dog will require daily insulin injections. Make sure that you’re sticking to consistent regiments of giving those insulin injections as close to a twelve-hour apart as possible. This is very important.
  2. Diet: Your vet will recommend a diet that is good for your diabetic dog. They should be fed only this food and never anything else or any treat from the table. Each time that you feed them, you will need to make sure that it is the exact same amount each time.
  3. Exercise: Your dog will need plenty of exercises to stay healthy. Taking your dog for a walk or playing in the back yard will help keep them healthy and active.

Tips for Managing Your Dog’s Diabetes

  • Get a routine going and try to stick to that routine as best to your abilities.
  • Make a plan for emergencies and be able to recognize an emergency situation.
  • Form a relationship with a vet who you trust, and your pet feels comfortable around.
  • Ask questions! Do not hesitate to ask your vet questions, the more you know, the better your dog’s quality of life will be!
  • Learn your pet’s normal behaviors, so you know when something is going on.

Diabetes management does not have to be a scary thing and can, over time, become just part of your daily routine. Don’t be afraid of the 12-hour insulin rituals. There are amazing dog sitters out there, and your veterinarian can help if you want to get away or have an evening out.

Always consult your veterinarian before changing anything with your dog’s insulin. Your veterinarian will be able to show you exactly what would be the best way to give the insulin shot and how much to give.

How to Give Your Dog an Insulin Shot

Step One: Learn the appropriate amount of insulin from your vet

Your vet will tell you your dog’s dosage of insulin that you should be giving them every 12 hours. They will make sure that you have the correct syringes and supplies needed to be able to give insulin injections to your dog.

Step Two: Find a good spot on the dog and give the injection

When you’re giving insulin injections, you will need to find a place on their body that you can lift up their skin a little bit to be able to help guide where the needle is going.

A good place to give your dog insulin injections is between the shoulder blades or on the side of each hip. This is an easy area that you can grab a little bit of skin to be able to lift up. When you lift the skin, use your finger as a guide for where to put the needle. Stick the needle all the way into the skin and push the plunger.

Image of a beagle dog getting an insulin shot for diabetes behind the shoulder
Close up image of a veterinarian giving a dog an insulin shot in the back of the shoulders for diabetes
Image of a beagle dog with its owner holding it while a veterinarian gives an insulin shot for diabetes
Close up photo of a medium sized dog receiving an insulin shot for diabetes in the hip

How can you help a dog who doesn’t like getting shots?

Photo of an uncomfortable dachshund dog receiving an insulin shot for diabetes

Some dogs are a little bit more sensitive about getting insulin injections. It may be a little bit of trial and error to find an area that tends to be less sensitive versus others. When you’re drawing up the shot, pet them and rub on them, so they think that they are just being loved on.

When you go to give the shot, lift the skin, and give it a slight little squeeze. They will notice the little squeeze more than they will the needle. Another thing that you can do is rub your finger on the skin right where they are about to get an injection. Since the needle is so small, they usually will not even recognize the actual injection.

What do you do if your dog is having a diabetic emergency?

You will need to always watch your dog for any problems of low blood sugar or blood sugar that is still too high. If you suspect that your dog may have gotten too much insulin, this will cause low blood sugar, and they need to be seen by your vet as soon as possible.

Something that you can do at home before going to the vet would be rub either corn syrup, maple syrup, or even just some sugar in water on their gums. Your dog will absorb sugar across the mucous membranes, and that may buy a little bit of time for you to able to get them into a veterinarian.

Signs of a Diabetic Emergency in Dogs

If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, it is best to take them to a vet as soon as possible:

  • Excessive drinking for more than three days
  • Inappropriate urination or excessive urination for more than three days
  • Reduction in or loss of appetite
  • Weakness, seizures or severe depression
  • Behavioral change, muscle twitching or anxiety
  • Constipation, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Signs of a bladder infection
  • Swelling of the head or neck

Final Thoughts

Diabetes is a common condition that is seen in older dogs. The most common signs that your dog is diabetic is that they are drinking more water and urinating more. If you notice these signs in your dog, take them to your vet for blood work.

If your dog does have diabetes, this can be easily treated at home with daily insulin injection and food management. Many dogs can live a long and happy life after they have been diagnosed with diabetes.

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