Dogs with Diabetes

Did you know that at least 1 in every 300 dogs is likely to develop canine diabetes during its lifecycle?

Like humans, our canine buddies are susceptible to health issues that can be life-threatening if ignored and dog diabetes or canine diabetes is a good example. Even worse, there is an upward trend in this disease, especially in middle-aged and senior dogs.

When your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, he will spend the rest of his life depending on insulin injections. However, prevention and management of diabetes come back to one factor – DIET.

Are you looking for information about dogs with diabetes like why he won’t eat, cost, the proper diet life expectancy? You have not wandered away. But before we continue, do you know what canine diabetes is, its causes, and symptoms?

What is Canine Diabetes?

Canine diabetes, scientifically known as diabetes mellitus, refers to the dog body’s incapability to control blood glucose levels. When your dog eats, this food is processed into proteins, fat, and glucose. Approx. 5% of the pancreas constitutes beta cells that produce insulin, a hormone that breaks down glucose to energy.

Now, there are two types of diabetes, including Type 1 & Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, on the one hand, occurs when the pancreas discontinues producing insulin as it should be. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, occurs when the dog’s body becomes resistant to insulin due to too much sugar.

Type I diabetes is prevalent in dogs and the causes are vague but it is linked to an autoimmune disease attacking the insulin and has revealed a strong genetic link. Type 2 diabetes is associated with dietary factors like obesity where excessive insulin is produced leading to insensitivity to the hormone.

And while diabetes has no cure, leaving it untreated leads to serious health problems such as impaired vision and can turn to be life-threatening.

5 Signs/Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

If you see these signs, know that your canine buddy has diabetes:

  • Drinking plenty of water causing frequent urination
  • Increased hunger makes him eat a lot
  • Throwing up
  • Body weakness or tiredness
  • Weight loss as the body burns off tissue to make more glucose

In the event of such symptoms, take your canine friend to his veterinarian for tests before the condition goes downhill. 

9 Diabetes Risk Factors

If you are familiar with the factors which can increase the probability of diabetes is crucial to preventing it. As such, we have listed some of them below:

  • Breed – Some dog breeds are susceptible to canine diabetes than others.
  • Obesity or overweight leads to arthritis, skin conditions, and more.
  • A diet that can lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome, pancreatitis, autoimmune disorders, and inflammation.
  • Auto-immunity results from food allergies, infections, toxins, and drugs.
  • Inflammation resulting from stress, injury, body fat, and some foods.
  • Vaccination – Each time your dog is vaccinated, more antibodies are generated leading to autoimmune diseases.
  • GMOs such as glyphosate and BT toxins are chemicals used as pesticides in cornfields.
  • Pancreatitis destroys the pancreas’ beta cells that generate an insulin
  • The metabolic syndrome causes stroke, heart disease, kidney damage, and more.

When to Put a Diabetic Dog Down

As parts of our family, dogs are worth our care and protection just any other family member and we rarely like to think about their life expectancy. Even worse, a time comes when we have to make a touching decision of putting them down after their lifespan is shortened by a malady such as diabetes.

The hardest part is watching your diabetic dog wrangle in pain or unable to do the things he likes and you just can’t fathom what is happening next. The toughest question, however, is how do you know that it is the right time to put your diabetic dog down?

Today, I will introduce you to a Quality of Life Scale or the HHHHHMM Scale created by Dr. Alice Villalobos, DVM, that helps you determine when to euthanize your diabetic dog. During that emotional time, the scale is grouped with a rating of 0-10. Make sure that you assess it thrice in three days before making the final decision.

1-10HURTDo you notice breathing problems or pain? Is the pain manageable?
1-10HUNGERHow much is he eating? Does he have an increased or decreased appetite?
1-10HYDRATIONHow hydrated is your pooch?
1-10HYGIENEMaintain routine bathing and brushing. Are there incontinence issues or pressure sores? Provide soft bedding and clean the sores.
1-10HAPPINESSHow jolly is your canine buddy? How does he respond to the environment?
1-10MOBILITYDoes your pooch require help to get on his feet? Is he thrilled to go for walks? Are there signs of stumbling or seizures? 
1-10MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BADAre the bad days more than the good ones? If so, your pooch’s life is compromised and you can now consider euthanasia.

Table: Quality of Life Scale by Dr. Alice Villalobos, DVM.

When you add all the scores in each group, check out the results and if the total score is more than 35, that means your dog has an acceptable quality of life. If the score is less than 35, make a decision about euthanasia.

NOTE: You can always consult your dog’s vet before making this decision to euthanize them. You should also check if they have other health issues associated with diabetes or they are in their senior age. 

Final Stages of Dog Diabetes

During the final stages of dog diabetes, you will notice a sudden change in health and they will become very sick, lose appetite, drinks lots of water, and the body becomes very weak. This is a condition known as ketoacidosis.

Diabetes ketoacidosis refers to a medical emergency that transpires after there is insufficient insulin in the body to control glucose (blood sugar) levels.  The inability to work properly can also be as a result of other diseases.  The body cannot utilize glucose correctly in the absence of insulin which increases blood glucose levels. In response, the body generates ketone bodies from fat as a backup fuel source.

If the glucose control is unrestored, the ketone levels escalate which leads to a change in the body’s acid and base balance. As a result, the body acidity increases which is referred to as acidosis which disrupts the mineral or electrolyte balance leading to abnormal heart rhythms and muscle function. Infection, inflammation, and heart disease are some of the stress events that causes ketoacidosis.

Here are signs of diabetic ketoacidosis in dogs:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Unkempt hair-coat
  • Excessive dehydration and drinking water
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Weakness
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Weight loss

Since these symptoms can indicate other medical illnesses, make sure that your dog’s vet performs proper diagnostic tests if you are dealing with diabetic ketoacidosis. If ignored, ketoacidosis is life-threatening.

These severe conditions associated with diabetic ketoacidosis include kidney & heart failure, low blood sugar & phosphorous levels, brain swelling, fluid in the lungs, and continually low potassium levels. At this stage of diabetic ketoacidosis, hospitalization and intense treatment are necessary. 

Diabetic Dog Won’t Eat

Lack of appetite is one of the symptoms of diabetes in dogs. Basically, the condition causes your canine buddy to lose appetite and in the end starts thinning or losing weight that is unplanned.  One of the causes of diabetic dog not to eat is maybe because they do not like the food you are giving them.

While most dogs will eat what you purchase at the dog foods store, your dog’s vet might prefer prescription dog food for your diabetic dog. Alternatively, your diabetic dog may thrive better on a homemade regime that has been prepared by a vet nutritionist.

So, if your diabetic dog won’t eat, make sure you consult his vet. 

What to Feed a Diabetic Dog

Meat-based high protein nutrition that is low on carbs and moderate fat contents is an exceptional diet choice to feed a diabetic dog. However, make sure that the carbs are low glycemic and that 30% to 40% of the diabetic dog food’s calories are protein-based. Calories from carbs and fat should each makeup less than 30% of a diabetic dog’s nutrition.

If the diabetic dog has blood fat and pancreatitis elevations, limited dietary fat is vital. You might also take a diet adding supplemental fiber into account in his regular diabetic food. It helps boost the total fiber content while preserving quality excellence in the food.

If you want to control sugar levels in your dog better, ensure he consumes steady meals at set times on a daily basis. 

Dog Diabetes and Blindness

From the time of diagnosis of the illness, the majority of dogs with canine diabetes tend to develop cataracts within 5 to 6 months. This type of cataracts caused by diabetes mellitus can grow oddly fast and can lead to total eyesight loss in less than 48 hours.

An increase in blood glucose levels leads to intensified glucose levels in aqueous humor causing the glucose to diffuse across the lens capsule. So, an aldose reductase path transforms glucose to sorbitol which builds up in the lens since it can’t circulate through the lens cell membranes.

As a result, the osmotic gradient escalates where water enters the lens and irrevocably converts the lens structure through lens fiber swelling and rupture. In turn, this forms a vacuole and the cataract can be clearly seen via clinical diagnosis.

Dog Diabetes Cost

When you have a dog with diabetes, the cost of maintenance increases tremendously since it requires special care. It also needs extra dedication as compared to other healthy dogs. Even worse, the event affects the pet owner emotionally. 

Here are the costs associated with having a diabetic dog:

  • Insulin [$20 – $90 per month] – Diabetic dogs cannot regulate their body blood sugar after eating. As such, they must be injected with insulin at least once or twice a day. The size of the dog and the level of diabetes infection are the factors that determine how much insulin is to be injected.
  • Glucose meter [$10 – $40 per month] – A glucose meter is handy in testing your dog’s insulin levels at home. Pet owners can either choose to buy the machine which costs between $20 and $500 or visit a vet for the price mentioned above.
  • Syringes [$8 – $16 per month] – Syringes used to inject insulin are not re-usable which means that you have to buy one for each injection.
  • Test strips or Lancets [$5 – $15 per month] – You can test the level of blood sugar in your dog using either urine or blood. Both the mentioned apparatuses are essential for a blood test. While the urine test choice is painless, it is quite challenging to do at home. 
  • Diabetic dog food – Dog food specially made for diabetic dogs is costly compared to the routine dog food recipe. Since different pet food industries sell at different prices, it can be hard to estimate the exact price. It will depend on the brand you choose.
  • Vet visits [$0 – $80 per month] – As we mentioned earlier, diabetic dogs need regular vet visits where insulin prescriptions are written 3-4 months. Furthermore, you never know when an emergency visit might be required. 

In total, living with a diabetic dog can be costly but not that high-priced. In the exemption of diabetic dog foods, the monthly cost of maintaining a dog with diabetes ranges from $43 and $231.

Longest Living Dog with Diabetes

The life expectancy of a diabetic dog can be similar to that of a non-diabetic pooch, but only if you give him the necessary treatment. All you need to do is maintain sane levels of blood sugar in your dog and you will improve his quality of life.

If a diabetic dog lives past the first 3 months after diagnosis, they live a good normal life which can extend up to 2 years.

Average Lifespan of a Dog with Diabetes

Just because your pooch has been diagnosed with diabetes, this does not necessarily mean that his lifespan has been cut in half. How long they live depends on your enthusiasm to treat them as well as at which age they have been diagnosed with the disease.

Bearing the factors we mentioned above in mind, a diabetic dog has an average lifespan of 10 – 13 years. Surprisingly, they might end up dying from another disease other than diabetes mellitus.

Diabetic Dog with Blood in Urine

Blood in a dog’s urine or hematuria is yet another sign of canine diabetes. As a pet owner, you should consider the presence of blood in urine as an emergency and visit a vet as the blood can come from any part of the dog’s urinary system.

To stabilize the condition, you might require blood fluids for dehydration medication and blood transfusion in case the number of your pooch’s red blood cell is seriously low. If the blood is resulting from other infections such as urinary tract and bladder, antibiotics come in handy.

Treatment options for blood in the urine for dogs with diabetes include medication and surgery to get rid of bladder stones.


Should I treat my diabetic dog?

Yes, you should treat your diabetic dog. In fact, insulin is the most suggested treatment in nearly all canine diabetes cases. You MUST inject insulin at least twice a day. With that, you can give your dog a healthy and happy living like most dogs.

Why is my diabetic dog always hungry?

Your diabetic dog is always hungry because of ineffectiveness in converting nutrients from the food he eats leading to a bigger appetite. Since the body cells are not receiving all the required amount of glucose, your dog will be hungry continuously even after eating his routine diet.

Why is my diabetic dog losing weight?

Despite eating the usual food portions, your diabetic dog can still lose weight continually because of the dog’s body’s inability to convert nutrients. Even if you are feeding him with his normal food amounts, he will be hungry all the time because the cells are not insufficient glucose.

Why is my diabetic dog throwing up?

If your diabetic dog is throwing up or vomiting, it can be an indication of escalated glucose levels. So, if your diabetic dog has missed an insulin injection or treatment, it could explain why he is vomiting and getting sick. Make sure that feeding and injecting go hand-in-hand to control blood sugar levels.


Diabetes mellitus is preventable and if he has been diagnosed with it, the disease is not a death sentence for your pooch. If taken care of properly, your diabetic dog can live a normal life like other dogs. All you need to do is watch out for the risk factors associated with the disease to maintain a healthy living.

Do not ignore any signs of this disease as it can be fatal in the long run leading to blindness and hematuria.  While it might be costly to manage a diabetic dog, it is not overpriced so keep him healthy. Start with high-quality diets and healthy living standards to prevent diabetes as your dog’s life expectancy depends on your enthusiasm.

Hopefully, the article was helpful. Adios!