Canine Diabetes - Causes, Signs, Symptoms and Treatments

By Karen A. Soukiasian

Diabetes is caused when the pancreas no long produces enough or entirely stops producing insulin. Without insulin, the body's cells cannot use glucose for aiding in digestion and for energy. The excess glucose builds up, causing diabetes. There are two types of Canine Diabetes. Canine Mellitus I and II and Diabetes Insipidus. Mellitus I and II are the most common. Type I is often found in puppies and younger dogs. It usually has a congenital connection. Type II is typically found in middle age, senior and unspayed female dogs (estrogen interferes with insulin).

There are also two types of Diabetes Insipidus. Nephprogenic is found when the kidneys do not respond to the body's production of antidiuretc hormone (ADH). This type is commonly caused by congenital factors, infections and/or medications. Central Diabetes Insipidus is a deficiency in the production of antidiuretic hormone (ADH). It is most commonly caused by congenital factors, trauma and/or tumors. Of the two types, Diabetes Insipidus is the more dangerous.

Predisposed Breeds

No breed is immune to canine diabetes. However, certain breeds appear to be more predisposed than others. They include: Poodle, German Shepherd, Keeshond, Golden Retriever, Yorkshire Terrier, Samoyed, Doberman Pinscher, Miniature Pinscher, Beagles, Cocker Spaniel, Cairn Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Old English Sheepdog, Maltese, Alaskan Malamute, Chow Chow, Labrador Retriever, Hungarian Puli, Springer Spaniel, Schipperke, Schnauzer, and Bichon Frise.


Origins of diabetes include:

  1. Heredity - Congenital factors/breed.
  2. Obesity.
  3. Infections of the pancreas i.e. pancreatitis.
  4. Trauma.
  5. Tumors.
  6. Medications.
  7. Estrogen interference.

Signs and Symptoms

Veterinary attention is imperative if you notice:

  1. Excessive hunger and thirst - High sugar levels trigger excessive thirst. Lack of proper digestion triggers excessive hunger.
  2. Frequent urination - The excess sugar increases the amount and frequency of urination.
  3. Sweet breath - Excessive levels of glucose produce a sweet odor that can be detected on your dog's breath.
  4. Dull coat.
  5. Lethargy.
  6. Vomiting.
  7. Shaking - Seek immediate veterinary attention.
  8. Seizures - Seek immediate veterinary attention.

Be Prepared

By taking certain precautions, your dog can lead a quite normal life. They include:

  1. Keep a glucometer handy to check your pet's sugar level.
  2. Water, water, everywhere! Make sure your dog has access to plenty of water. Keep more than one bowl filled with fresh water at all times.
  3. Exercise in moderation. Over exercise can trigger an episode.
  4. Diet - Keep their weight in check. One of the most common causes of Canine Diabetes is obesity.
  5. No sweets!
  6. Keep honey or Karo Syrup handy should they have a hyperglycemic episode (blood sugar drops). Immediately rub Karo syrup or honey on their gums.
  7. Keep emergency numbers for more than one veterinarian handy.
  8. Regular checkups.


  1. Avoid sugars and sweets.
  2. Avoid foods with high fat content - Stresses pancreas and obesity triggers and exacerbates diabetes.
  3. High fiber diet to assist in the digestion of carbohydrates - Helps lower glucose and aids proper digestion.


  1. Vetsulin - Canine insulin. Cannot be used by dogs allergic to pork.
  2. DDAVP - A synthetic antidiuretic hormone used for Central Diabetes Insididus.
  3. Glipizide - An insulin pill used as an alternative for dogs allergic to pork.

Canine Diabetes Is Serious! It Can Lead To:

  1. Ketoacidosis - Excessive ketones, caused by lack of insulin in the body. Watch your dog's breath for what smells like nail polish. Can be fatal.
  2. Ongoing infections - Immune system is stressed. Sugar attracts bacteria, causing reoccurring infections i.e. Urinary Tract Infections (UTI).
  3. Blindness.

Bottom line: Canine Diabetes does not have to be a death keel for your puppy or dog. When timely recognized, diagnosed and treated, the quality of your dog's life should not change too drastically. It may mean more of a commitment on your part, but one look into your dog's eyes will make it well worthwhile.

Karen A. Soukiasian
Article by Karen A. Soukiasian
Karen A. Soukiasian, GOOD DOG! - DOG TRAINING and BED-n-BISCUITS dog boarding and training - Owner/Trainer, St. Augustine, Florida - AKC CANINE GOOD CITIZEN and S.T.A.R. PUPPY Evaluator. Visit my website at: and