Diabetes in dogs

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

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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 Accidental Injury Illness Paralysis Tick Benefit Maximum yearly benefit Reimbursement rate Reimbursement Rate Maximum Yearly Benefit
Woolworths Comprehensive Cover
$1,500
$24,000
80%
80%
$24,000
Woolies top policy comes with a $24,000 annual limit — higher than the majority of providers — plus cover for accidents, illnesses and routine care. Includes a price beat promise for similar policies and GapOnly cover.
Medibank Ultimate Pet Care
$1,200
$15,000
80%
80%
$15,000
Get 16% off pet insurance for the first year. Plus, Medibank health members save 10% every subsequent year. Use promo code SAVE16. Ends June 22. T&Cs apply*. Find out more.
Budget Direct Dog Insurance
$1,500
$12,000
80%
80%
$12,000
Apply online and get 15% off your first year’s premium. T&Cs apply.
Knose Dog Cover
$25,000
$25,000
70%, 80% or 90%
70%, 80% or 90%
$25,000
⭐Finder Exclusive: Get 10% off of the first year's premium. Lower prices for lower risk pets. T&C's apply.
PIA Major Medical Cover
$1,200
$15,145
80%
80%
$15,145
Covers specified accidents and illnesses, with Routine Care Cover included. Get 2 months free when you sign up.
Vets Choice Elite Cover
$2,500
$15,000
100%
100%
$15,000
Get a 5% discount when you insure more than one pet.
Kogan Pet Luxury Cover
$2,000
$15,000
80% or 65%
80% or 65%
$15,000
Sign up and get $75 Kogan.com Credit. T&Cs apply.
Coles Premium Cover
$2,500
$12,000
100%
100%
$12,000
Earn 10x Flybuys points per $1 spent on pet food at Coles Supermarkets. T&Cs apply.
PD Deluxe Plan
$2,300
$15,000
N/A
N/A
$15,000
This comprehensive plan covers your pet for emergencies, dental, illness and accidents. Plus, an optional Wellness Benefits add-on. Apply online and get your first month free. T&Cs apply.
Petsy Dog Accidental Injury and Illness Cover (Vet Select)
$1,500
$25,000
100%
100%
$25,000
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.
RSPCA Ultimate Plus Accident and Illness Cover
Up to $20,000 annual limit
$20,000
80%
80%
$20,000
Comprehensive cover for your pet, including the option of routine care. Get 1 month free for the first year of new policies. T&C's apply.
Guide Dogs Premium Care
$2,000
$20,000
85%
85%
$20,000
Get 1 month free pet insurance when you sign up for cover with Guide Dogs. T&Cs apply.
PetSecure Accident and Illness Cover
$500
$12,000
75% or 85%
75% or 85%
$12,000
Your pet is covered for life.
Real Premium Accident & Illness Cover
$1,200
$12,000
80%
80%
$12,000
Covers an extensive range of illnesses and accidents, including an optional Routine Benefit add-on. Get 10% of premiums back in the first 12 months.
Guardian Platinum Accident & Illness Cover
$1,200
$12,000
80%
80%
$12,000
No joining fee to pay.
Prime Sovereign Accident & Illness Cover
$1,200
$14,000
85%
85%
$14,000
With guaranteed renewal you can protect your pet for life.
Australian Seniors Top Accident & Illness Cover
$1,200
$12,000
80%
80%
$12,000
Extra benefits such as overseas cover for your pet, plus an optional routine care add-on.
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