Management and Prevention of Diabetes in Dogs

What is Canine Diabetes or Diabetes Mellitus?

In healthy dogs, insulin is secreted by the pancreas after a meal and moves blood sugar into cells, where it is converted to energy for the cells to function.

Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or properly use insulin to break down glucose (a type of sugar) in foods. Glucose is the main source of energy needed by the body’s cells to sustain life. 


When diabetes occurs, excessive glucose builds up in the dog’s bloodstream but the body’s cells that need that glucose can’t access it. As a result, vital functions are affected:

  • Muscle cells and certain organ cells are starved of the glucose ‘fuel’ they need for energy. Because of this glucose deprivation, the body starts breaking down its own fats and proteins to use as alternative ‘fuel’.
  • Many organs are damaged by the high glucose level that builds up in the bloodstream. Because of the lack of insulin to help convert the glucose in the bloodstream into fuel, there is a glucose accumulation in the blood. Unfortunately, this imbalance in blood chemistry acts like a sort of poison and eventually causes multi-organ damage. This often includes damage to the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes or nerves.


Diabetes in dogs can occur at any age. However, diabetic dogs are usually middle-aged or senior dogs. While diabetes in dogs may not be curable, it can be managed quite successfully.

It is very important to maintain the proper insulin and feeding schedules recommended for your pet. Maintaining a normal appetite while on insulin therapy is crucial or you risk hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if your pet is not eating and absorbing enough sugars to balance the insulin’s effect of removing the sugars from the bloodstream. Here are other measures for the ongoing management of dogs diagnosed with diabetes:

  • Daily insulin shots given by owners at home to replace insulin
  • Regular, moderate exercise that suits the affected dog’s needs
  • New diet: Typically, a low-fat diet high in proteins, fiber and complex carbohydrates
  • Test and adjust medication/treatment: finding the correct dosage may take some time
  • At-home monitoring of your pet’s daily blood and urine glucose levels
  • Ongoing management of diet, exercise and medication
  • Spaying female dogs diagnosed with diabetes
  • Going for regular veterinarian checkups


The best prevention tools are similar to the management measures outlined above. As a dog owner, you can prevent or reduce your dog’s risk of developing diabetes by:

  • Providing a healthy, well-balanced diet that can help your dog avoid diabetes.
  • Ensuring that your dog gets enough exercise and controlling your dog’s weight. Obesity contributes to insulin resistance and can increase a dog’s chances of developing pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), a disease that leads to diabetes.
  • Taking your dog for regular checkups is important. Dogs can’t tell you when they feel unwell or show you exactly where it hurts. That’s why subtle physical and behavioral changes should never be ignored. So, apart from routine checkups (typically once a year), have your dog checked out even if you’re just mildly concerned about something. Diabetes is more manageable if it is detected early and treatment protocol is established by your veterinarian.
  • Spaying female dogs is recommended. Unspayed females are more likely to develop diabetes than male dogs. Spaying also helps prevent uterine infections and breast cancer.

Diabetic dogs can live long and healthy lives with proper management and veterinary care. If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior or weight, consult your veterinarian.

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