4 Early Symptoms of Diabetes In Dogs

Diabetes has increased among dogs and cats over the last several decades. This is one of the more chronic conditions affecting dog health we see in our veterinary clinic. Some say it may simply be because pets live longer, giving them a greater chance to develop diabetes. However, it’s hard not to notice that the lifestyles and diets of dogs has changed radically over the past several decades. Unfortunately, determining the exact cause of diabetes mellitus isn’t that straightforward. This is because no one can identify the true cause of diabetes mellitus in dogs.

In this article you’ll learn the 4 early signs of diabetes mellitus that can save your dog’s life.

Chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy laying down and looking sad on an orange background
Do I have diabetes?

The good news about diabetes is that the sooner it’s diagnosed, the greater the chances the patient has to live a normal life. Being able to identify the early symptoms of diabetes in dogs can literally save your dog’s life. Our first dog was diagnosed at 7 years old. With proper care and love, he lived to the ripe old age of 14.

What is canine diabetes?

Canine diabetes mellitus or dog diabetes is a very common dog health issue that affects 1 in every 300 dogs per the Merck Veterinary Manual. It is a condition where your dog’s body doesn’t produce enough insulin. That causes the blood glucose level also known as blood sugar level to rise. It is a disease of the pancreas which performs 2 roles within your dogs body. The first is to help with digestion as the organ is right next to the intestines. The second role is the production of insulin. Insulin’s role is to regulate how glucose is absorbed by the cells in your dog’s body. So diabetes mellitus is where the pancreas fails to regulate the blood sugar or blood glucose. This is a problem because the body can’t use the glucose for energy.

Are there different types of diabetes in dogs?

There are two types of dog diabetes, type I and type II. Type I diabetes is described above, where the pancreas fails to regulate the blood glucose levels. Type II diabetes is where the body doesn’t respond normally to the insulin in the blood stream. The differences in dogs (and cats) is less clear than in humans according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

What are the symptoms of diabetes in dogs?

Please understand that it’s not necessary for you to know the symptoms of all possible diseases. If there is something unusual going on with your pet, a visit or phone call to your veterinarian is recommended.

  1. Increased urination: This is often the first symptom noticed by the pet owner of a diabetic dog. What happens is that the dog’s body tries to lower its blood glucose level, something which is usually done by insulin. The dog suddenly starts to ask to go out more frequently or starts to pee on the floor. This is when people often turn to an animal behaviorist for help, when in reality they should consult their veterinarian. Large puddles of urine or frequent urination can be signs of not only diabetes, but many other diseases as well.
  2. Increased water consumption: If your dog or dogs spend most of their time outdoors, you may not notice increased urination. However, what you should be able to detect is that your dog is drinking more water. If you replace your dog’s water at least daily, you will be able to notice any changes in water consumption early enough.
  3. Increased appetite: Dogs with diabetes are not able to receive sufficient nutrition from their food. That means that a diabetic dog will need to consume more food to meet their dietary requirements. Your dog may feel satisfied soon after eating but will feel hungry again after a short amount of time. Remember that an increased appetite can be a sign of many other diseases as well. Visit your veterinarian and look for any other signs present. You can learn more about excessive eating in dogs.
  4. Rapid weight loss: This appears to be a paradox, your dog is eating more, but is losing weight. This symptom means that the dog is not getting enough nutrition and is losing not only fat reserves but also muscle mass. Soon enough however, diabetes will make your dog gain weight. This is because your dogs body becomes unable to turn fat into energy. Since most diabetic dogs are reported to be obese before the onset of the disease, a classic diabetes pattern is: Obesity -> Rapid weight loss -> Obesity.

Later signs of diabetes mellitus include obesity, anorexia, lethargy, and vomiting. These symptoms can also point to other medical conditions, and these along with diabetes can be best confirmed by your veterinarian. Remember, early diagnosis is the biggest step to a good outcome when dealing with any disease, especially diabetes.

What is the treatment for diabetes in dogs?

Treatment of diabetes in dogs, or rather we consult our pet owners to say the management of diabetes, usually includes insulin administration, a significant amount of physical activity (like a bike ride with your dog), and a well balanced and consistent diet.

When our first dog started urinating excessively, we noticed this symptom and upon doing a blood test, we determined he indeed was diabetic. Our pup being 7 years old we found is a common age that a diabetic dog is diagnosed. We understood that the median survival time was about 2.5 years. We also knew that if he survived the first 3-4 months after developing diabetes, he had a great chance of a good long life with insulin injections, exercise, and a proper diet. Knowing this, we tested his blood glucose level before his 2 daily meals and gave him his insulin injection. We are happy to report that he lived to a ripe old age of 14 which is on the high side for a Labrador Retriever. Yes it was a lot of work when you add it all up, but it was nothing compared to the love and companionship of our first beloved dog.

How to give a dog an insulin injection

Please understand that you don’t need to be a veterinarian like me to to properly manage canine diabetes. The exercise and diet part are the relatively straight forward parts of this management program. How do you test their blood sugar level and give the insulin therapy is what scares most of our pet owners.

We found the easiest way to test your dogs blood sugar levels is to prick the Lateral Saphenous vein which is located near your dog’s ankle of their back leg. Your veterinarian can guide you on how to do this or a where to draw a sample. When we first did this to our male diabetic dog, we teamed up. One of us would distract him with treats while the other would prick him and test the blood using a glucose test strip. We found that over the 7 years (twice a day) we did this, our male’s blood sugar levels rarely varied enough to change the insulin dosage. Again, your veterinarian can guide you through this.

The easiest part of this is also the scariest part to a pet parent. This is to administer the insulin injection. The scruff of the neck is where your dog has lots of loose skin and is where most injections are given. You’ll want to do this with after getting very specific guidance of your veterinary. After the first few times, you’ll get the hang of it and it’ll become routine. One tip is that insulin should be injected under the skin, but not into a vein directly. I advice my patients to make sure they don’t hit a vein but pulling back on the syringe slightly before injecting the insulin. If you pull the plunger back slightly and blood appears in the syringe, the syringe is in a vein. Please work with your veterinarian on how to properly administer insulin.

Early Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs Summary

If you keep these things in mind and notice the symptoms of diabetes early, the prognosis is good for your diabetic pet to live a normal life and reach an old age.

Now that you know what dog diabetes is, what the early symptoms of diabetes in dogs are, and how to manage your dogs diabetes, the prognosis is good for your diabetic pet to live a normal life and reach a ripe old age. This will go a long way towards a happy life for you and your dog. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.

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