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Diabetes Mellitus In Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, & Treatment

Diabetes Mellitus In Dogs

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a more common endocrine and metabolic disease in dogs with a reported prevalence of 2% (1 in 300 dogs). This is a metabolic disorder and results from a disruption of pancreas function due to the loss of pancreatic β-cells which are responsible for synthesizing and secreting insulin. Similar to type 1 DM in humans, dogs get insulin-dependent DM with persistent hyperglycemia.

Diabetes mellitus results from the body’s lack of ability to use or produce insulin either due to a complete shortage of insulin (insulin-dependent or T1DM) or from an impaired compensatory insulin secretory response from the peripheral tissues to use the insulin and bring glucose into the cells (non-insulin-dependent, insulin-resistant or (T2DM). As insulin is the most vital regulator of glucose homeostasis, DM will hinder the organs and muscles from using sugar (glucose) as fuel (energy). This result in excessive amounts of glucose in the blood and the body cells lose their main energy source (hyperglycemia).

Most cases of spontaneous DM occur in female, middle-aged and overweight dogs. In dogs, DM incidence twice more often occurs in females than in males.

Meanwhile, Diabetes mellitus is different from Diabetes insipidus (DM). Diabetes insipidus is rare in dogs with a reported occurrence of 1 in 30000. Diabetes insipidus (DI) is a heterogeneous condition caused by the failure to make or react to antidiuretic hormone (ADH) altering the mechanism of water retention and excretion. Diabetes insipidus is characterized by polyuria and polydipsia (excessive thirst/drinking) and increased production of enormous volumes of abnormally dilute urine (low urine specific gravity).

Symptoms Of Diabetes Mellitus

Early signs:

  • Polyuria - Increased urination
  • Polydipsia- Increased drinking
  • Polyphagia - Excessive eating
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Chronic or recurring infections (including skin infections)
  • Bladder or kidney infection
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Dyslipidemia

Advanced stage:

  • Blindness
  • Cataracts
  • Increased appetite
  • Anorexia
  • Dull coat
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss/ loss of muscle mass
  • Joint stiffness/weakness

Neurologic signs:

  • Seizures
  • Disorientation
  • Incoordination

Treatment Options For Diabetes Mellitus

There is no specific cure for Diabetes mellitus but it can be treated to relieve symptoms.

Medications: for Type, I diabetes, oral medications are not available, however, for Type II diabetes, several types of dog diabetes insulin, and syringes are available. Insulin is injected under the skin using an insulin pen (a pre-filled syringe) or syringe.

Maintaining a healthy weight: noticeably decreases the rate of DM influence in the dogs.

Glucose monitoring: This can be done at home using devices such as OneTouch Ultra glucometer, AlphaTRAK2, etc. skin-mounted sensor (such as freeStyle Libre) is used nowadays.

Treatment of appetite changes, blood pressure alterations, anemia, fluid imbalances, electrolyte disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, and nausea is typically necessary.

Home Remedies For Diabetes Mellitus

  1. The 3 P’s: polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia should be addressed properly.
  2. Follow the instructions given to you by your veterinarian for the entire recommended time period. No matter how badly you want relief for your dogs or what you hear from other dog owners, talk with your vet before trying any home remedy.
  3. Make sure to provide plenty of drinking water.
  4. If any specific diet has been suggested to your dog, follow the diet very strictly, and never provide or allow others to give your dog treats or other food.

Prevention Of Diabetes Mellitus

  • There is no means of preventing or avoiding diabetes mellitus save genetic counseling.
  • Screening of highly affected breeds prior to breeding is strongly recommended.
  • Never skip check-ups.
  • feed a home-prepared diet of pasture-fed, organically produced ingredients.
  • When your dog has been prescribed a dosage, taper off slowly or else you might experience withdrawal symptoms.

Affected Breeds Of Diabetes Mellitus

German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Poodle, Keeshond, Miniature Pinscher, Alaskan Malamute, Beagle, Cairn Terrier, Dachshund, Labrador Retriever, Pug, Samoyed, Siberian Husky

Additional Facts For Diabetes Mellitus

1. Causes

  • Hereditary defect
  • Unknown cause (Idiopathic)
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) chronic or repeated can damage the pancreas eventually leading to possible DM
  • Diseases such as Cushing’s disease or pyometra, Addison’s disease
  • Certain medications such as steroids

2. Types:

Insulin-dependent or Type 1: Inability to use or produce insulin due to loss of pancreatic β-cells and a complete shortage of insulin. This is the most prevalent form that affects dogs ( 99%).

Insulin resistant or Type 2: This is due to an impaired compensatory insulin secretory response to utilize the insulin stimulation of liver, muscle, and adipose tissue and bring glucose into the cells. This is very rare in dogs.

3. Mortality:

DI is a potentially life-threatening disease in dogs and the median survival time for diabetic dogs is two years. There are many dogs that live much longer than that, as long as they receive appropriate treatment and are regularly assessed by the vet.

4. Diagnosis:

  • Routine hematology, Urinalysis, and Electrolyte tests
  • Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression Test primarily tests for Cushing’s disease
  • Thyroid function tests to determine hypothyroid disease or an underactive thyroid
  • Serum bile acids analyze liver function
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test for Addison’s disease
  • Cortisol tests

5. Prognosis:

There is no cure for Diabetes mellitus. This is a chronic, progressive metabolic disorder that will typically continue to worsen over time, with progressively more severe symptoms. However, the rate of progression can vary considerably from one dog to another. Treatment is usually supplemental and is based on the dog's symptoms.

When To See A Vet

Time to visit the vet clinic for an examination, if you notice any of the following:

  • Polyuria - Excessive urination
  • Polydipsia - Excessive drinking
  • Polyphagia - Excessive eating

Food Suggestions For Diabetes Mellitus

  • High-insoluble fiber,low-fat diet is recommended - (20% of the dry food as fiber).
  • Underweight dogs: High-fiber diets are not recommended.
  • Overweight dogs: 15 percent of the dry matter as fiber.
  • Protein: High protein diet comprising 40% of the dog's calories.
  • Fats: Omega-3 and other healthy fats.
  • Feed foods have a lower (or moderate) Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load than others.
  • L-carnitine supplementation.


Diabetes mellitus restricts your dog from living its life to the fullest. Whatever the form of Diabetes is, it always progresses and becomes increasingly worse.

DM needs life-long management as it is a long-term condition. As of now, there is no known cure, but if well managed, most pets can live comfortable lives for many years. Dogs may also require physical therapy depending on the severity of the disease.

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