Diabetes in Dogs

What is Canine Diabetes?

Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that affects the amount of glucose, or sugar, in your dog’s blood. Diabetes occurs when your dog’s body makes too little insulin, stops producing it completely, or has an abnormal response to insulin.

Insulin affects how your dog’s body uses food

When your dog eats, carbohydrates are converted into several types of simple sugars, including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the blood, where it travels to cells throughout the body. Insulin is required for the transfer of glucose from the blood into the cells so it can be used for energy. If there’s too little insulin available, glucose can’t enter cells, and instead builds up to a high concentration in the bloodstream. This is known as hyperglycaemia.

As a result, there is not enough energy for the cells to function normally and they become “starved.” Over time, weight loss ensues despite a ravenous appetite. The build-up of glucose in the blood spills over into the urine and draws large volumes of water, resulting in increased thirst and urination.

How Common is Pet Diabetes?

Canine diabetes is more common in middle-age and older dogs, but it is also seen in young dogs. While believed to be underdiagnosed, diabetes mellitus affects an estimated 1 in 300 dogs.1

The primary cause of canine diabetes is largely unknown, but experts suggest that genetics may play a role.

“My vet told me certain dog breeds are at greater
risk for diabetes!”

Related Conditions

Dogs with diabetes can develop complications subsequent to becoming diabetic. Careful control of blood glucose concentrations may help minimize these complications.

Common complications of Canine Diabetes

Cataracts cloud the lens of the eye following prolonged high blood glucose concentrations, leading to blindness. Other complications include frequent infections and ketoacidosis (which cause decreased appetite, vomiting and lethargy).

These complications can be severe and impair how insulin works. If at any time you notice any changes in your dog’s clinical signs then contact your vet.

Which Dog Breeds Are at Risk?

Diabetes typically occurs when dogs are between 4 to 14 years of age. Unspayed female dogs are twice as likely as male dogs to get diabetes2.

Any dog could develop diabetes, but these breeds appear to be at greater risk for developing canine diabetes2:

Cocker Spaniels


Doberman Pinschers

German Shepherds

Golden Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers



Toy Poodles

Miniature Schnauzers



Next Article: Detection and Diagnosis >

Further Reading

Talk to Your Vet Today

to learn more about pet diabetes, and how cats and dogs can lead a happy,
healthy life with proper management