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Diabetes in dogs

The symptoms and causes of dog diabetes, plus possible treatment options.

Updated

Diabetes not only affects humans, it can also seriously complicate the health of our canine companions. However, the good news is that while it can’t be cured, diabetes in dogs can be managed successfully.

Read more about diabetes in dogs
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What is diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes in dogs:

  • Diabetes insipidus. Sometimes also known as “drinking diabetes”, diabetes insipidus leads to the failure to regulate the body’s water content. It is extremely rare in dogs.
  • Diabetes mellitus. Diabetes mellitus, sometimes also known as “sugar diabetes” is much more common. It is caused by an insulin deficiency, either because the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin or because the body cannot adequately utilise insulin.

This article will focus on diabetes mellitus in dogs and its causes, symptoms and treatment. Although a complex disorder, diabetes can be carefully managed to ensure that the affected dog can still live a long and healthy life.

What are the symptoms of diabetes in dogs?

The following symptoms could indicate that your dog has diabetes mellitus:

  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
The above are the four classical signs of diabetes, but there are several other signs and symptoms that may present in more advanced cases:
  • Sweet-smelling or fruity breath
  • Lethargy or a lack of energy
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
If you suspect that your dog may have diabetes, take him to the vet as soon as possible for a full check-up. If left untreated, the disease can have a severe impact on your dog’s overall health and cause:
  • Cataracts (eventually leading to blindness)
  • An enlarged liver
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting
  • Chronic skin conditions
  • Kidney failure

What causes diabetes in dogs?

Diabetes mellitus is a disease of the pancreas. Its exact cause is unknown, but there are several factors that may contribute to the development of the disease. These include:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Obesity
  • Chronic or repeated pancreatitis
  • Steroid medications
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Abnormal protein deposits in the pancreas
How exactly does dog diabetes occur? Think of it this way: just like your car needs fuel to run, body cells need a sugar called glucose. Glucose comes from carbohydrates in your dog’s diet, but to extract glucose from the blood your dog relies on a crucial hormone known as insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas by special cells called beta cells. Diabetes mellitus occurs when those beta cells fail to properly regulate blood sugar, resulting in abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood. There are two types of diabetes mellitus:

  • Type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. The most common form of dog diabetes, Type 1 occurs when the dog’s immune system attacks and destroys the body’s beta cells.
  • Type 2 or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas still produces insulin but the body’s cells fail to properly respond to the hormone.

Are any dogs prone to diabetes?

There are several factors that can contribute to the likelihood of a dog getting diabetes, including:

  • Breed. Diabetes can occur in any purebred or mixed-breed dog. However, studies have shown that certain breeds have a higher risk of developing the disease. Examples of these breeds include Miniature Poodles, Pugs, Dachshunds, Australian Terriers, Fox Terriers and Beagles.
  • Age. Diabetes can occur at any age but it most commonly occurs in middle-aged and older dogs. It is usually diagnosed in dogs five years of age or older.
  • Gender. Unspayed female dogs are twice as likely to get diabetes as male dogs.
  • Weight. Obesity can make cells resistant to insulin, so it’s important to make sure your pet stays at a healthy weight.
  • Diet. Feeding your dog a diet high in fat can contribute to pancreatitis, and chronic or repeated cases of this condition can severely damage the pancreas and cause diabetes.

How should I treat diabetes in my dog?

If you suspect that your dog has diabetes, your vet will ask for details of any symptoms and perform a thorough physical examination. Bloodwork and urinalysis will then be used to diagnose the disease. The treatment program for your dog will vary depending on how severe the symptoms are and whether or not your pooch has any other health issues. However, the main goal of treatment is to keep your pet’s blood sugar level as close to normal as possible. Diabetes treatment in dogs usually requires daily administration of insulin, as well as dietary changes, regular exercise and a stress-free lifestyle. If your dog is seriously ill when first diagnosed, s/he may need to be hospitalised for several days so that your vet can regulate their blood sugar and bring the disease under control. After the dog has been stabilised, your vet will work out the best treatment plan to allow you to manage their condition at home.

Does pet insurance cover diabetes?

Yes. The good news is that if you have a pet insurance policy that includes illness cover, you’ll be covered for eligible vet bills arising from your dog’s diabetes treatment. Cover for chronic conditions like diabetes can also be maintained throughout your pet’s life, provided of course that you renew your policy annually without any break in cover and you don’t change your level of cover after your pet reaches the policy’s upper age limit. However, pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, so if your dog already suffers from the disease when you buy a policy then the insurer won’t be able to provide any protection.

If your pet has diabetes then pet insurance has your back

Name Product Maximum yearly benefit Maximum yearly benefit Paralysis Tick Benefit Reimbursement rate Reimbursement rate Accidental Injury Illness
Woolworths Comprehensive Cover
$24,000
$24,000
$1,500
80%
80%
Woolworths has a price beat promise for similar policies. 1 year free VetAssist gives you instant access to vets online (valued at $199). T&Cs apply.
Knose Dog Cover
$25,000
$25,000
$25,000
70%, 80% or 90%
70%, 80% or 90%
Get cover for your pet.
PIA Major Medical Cover
$15,145
$15,145
$1,200
80%
80%
Get 2 months free when you sign up.
Bow Wow Meow Ultimate Care Plan
$20,000
$20,000
$3,000
80%
80%
Join and get 2 months free pet insurance for puppies. T&Cs apply.
Kogan Pet Luxury Cover
$15,000
$15,000
$2,000
80% up to age 8 & 65% over age 8
80% up to age 8 & 65% over age 8
1 month free for new customers.
PetSecure Accident and Illness Cover
$12,000
$12,000
$500
75% or 85%
75% or 85%
Your pet is covered for life.
Petsy Dog accidental injury and illness cover (Vet Select)
$25,000
$25,000
$1,500
100%
100%
Enjoy 2 months free and personalised pet tag with promo code: PETSYPET. Petsy members enjoy free personalised gifts, exclusive pet discounts and perks for humans.
Medibank Ultimate Pet Care
$15,000
$15,000
$1,200
80%
80%
Want to win 1 of 10x $1,000 pet food vouchers? Plus, health members save 10%. Use promocode: SAVE10. Ends November 1 2020. T&Cs apply.
RSPCA Ultimate Plus Accident and Illness Cover
$20,000
$20,000
Up to $20,000 annual limit
80%
80%
Get 1 month free for the first year of new policies. T&C's apply.
Real Premium Accident & Illness Cover
$12,000
$12,000
$1,200
80%
80%
Pay fortnightly, monthly or yearly at no extra cost.
Guardian Platinum Accident & Illness Cover
$12,000
$12,000
$1,200
80%
80%
No joining fee to pay.
Prime Sovereign Accident & Illness Cover
$14,000
$14,000
$1,200
85%
85%
With guaranteed renewal you can protect your pet for life.
Australian Seniors Top Accident & Illness Cover
$12,000
$12,000
$1,200
80%
80%
If you're over 50 get 10% off.
Guide Dogs Premium Care
$20,000
$20,000
$2,000
85%
85%
Helps support Guide Dogs Australia.
Vets Choice Elite Cover
$15,000
$15,000
$2,500
100%
100%
Get a 5% discount when you insure more than one pet.
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