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Understanding Canine Diabetes

Information on the signs, symptoms and care of dogs with diabetes.

November is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a common condition in dogs, affecting approximately 1 in 300 dogs. Diabetes is a condition where a dog's pancreas cannot properly control the level of glucose in the blood. While it can affect any breed of dog, some of the breeds with a higher propensity to develop diabetes are:

  • Australian Terrier
  • Beagle
  • Bichon Frise
  • Border Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Fox Terrier
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Keeshond
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Pomeranian
  • Pug
  • Puli
  • Samoyed
  • Siberian Husky
  • Tibetan Terrier
  • Toy Poodle
  • Yorkshire Terrier
Diabetes tends to appear in dogs that are five years or older. Diabetes can develop due to weight issues, genetic factors, and the presence of other conditions such as Cushing's disease and pancreatitis. Dogs are similar to people in that they can develop Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, although Type 1 occurs much more often than Type 2. In Type 1 diabetes, most, or all, of a dog's cells that produce insulin are destroyed, and the dog needs regular insulin injections to process their blood sugar levels. In Type 2 diabetes, there is less damage to the insulin producing cells and the dog can still produce insulin, but not at optimal levels. These dogs can be helped with a combination of medication and insulin injections.

Knowing the signs of diabetes can lead to an early diagnosis and treatment. The most common symptoms are:
  • Increased drinking and thirst
  • Frequent urination and larger amounts of urine. This may also include:
    • house training accidents
    • bladder infections
  • Loss of weight 
  • Increased appetite
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Cataracts (approximately 3/4 of dogs with diabetes develop cataracts/blindness)
Treatment of diabetes includes giving the dog insulin injections twice a day, careful management of blood glucose levels, weight control (which may include special veterinary diets) and in some cases veterinarians may recommend spaying a dog to regulate hormones that may further worsen the disease's effects. Unfortunately there is no cure for diabetes but dedicated dog owners can keep their dogs healthy and happy for many years with the assistance of their veterinarian.

If you have a dog with diabetes, you may be interested in taking a survey for The Diabetes Program at Penn Veterinary Hospital, which runs clinical trials to help learn more about treating dogs with diabetes.


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