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How Do You Take Care Of A Dog With Diabetes?

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Tim Rhodes

Diabetes is an illness that’s common in middle-aged to senior dogs, and you need to be aware of how you take care of a dog with diabetes.

Dog diabetes or ‘canine diabetes’ can occur either due to low insulin in the body or when the body’s cells fail to make use of insulin as required.

When consumed, carbohydrates are broken down to glucose.

Then the pancreas produces a hormone called Insulin, which extracts glucose from the blood and feeds it to the cells.

Glucose, also referred to as blood sugar, gives your body energy, and our body cells run on glucose the same way machines use petrol or diesel for fuel.

Table of Contents

How Do You Take Care Of A Dog With Diabetes?

Recent research shows that about 1 in every 300 dogs gets diabetes.

Diabetes can cause very worrying symptoms.

Though not curable, your dog can still enjoy a long and quality life with careful management after diagnosis.

Types Of Diabetes Affecting Dogs

Whenever you hear of diabetes, what comes to mind is obviously insulin.

This isn’t true because there are two different kinds of diabetes with other treatments.

Their causes are also entirely different though the symptoms, to some extent, could be similar.

Type 1 Diabetes (Diabetes Mellitus)

It occurs when the pancreas cannot produce adequate insulin and cannot get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells.

This results in glucose overload in the blood, which may eventually lead to organ damage.

Type 1 affects nearly all dogs whose pancreas fails.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 is brought about by the body resisting insulin.

The pancreas is correctly producing enough insulin, but some factors block it from picking glucose from the blood into the cells.

Some of the complications which may cause insulin resistance include obesity, inflammatory disease, Cushing’s disease, etc.

With time the pancreas gets extremely tired and loses its ability to produce insulin; this condition is rare in dogs but very common in humans and cats.

Causes of Diabetes

We can’t say with complete certainty why dogs get diabetes, but some factors will put your dog at a higher risk.


Though your dog can develop diabetes at any age, the peak onset is from middle to old age.

The highest percentage is from seven years.


In females, the heat cycle or gestation period may cause insulin resistance.

Your female dog has a double chance of developing diabetes as your male dog.

In some cases, the warning signs may disappear at the end of the pregnancy or heat cycle.

Genetic Component

Researchers suppose that genetic components could be a factor because some breeds happen to be more affected than others.

These breeds include Siberian Huskies, Keeshonds, Bichon Frise, Pullis, Fox Terriers, Miniature Pinschers, Spitz, Australian Terriers, Schnauzers, Cairn Terriers, and Poodles.

Environmental Factors

Processed foods, vaccinations, and environmental abuse contribute to the overstimulation of the immune system.

Auto-immune disorders can damage your dog’s pancreas.

Inflammation of Pancreas

Your pet can also develop diabetes due to massive pancreatic damage resulting from inflammation.

40% of cases are linked to chronic pancreatitis.


It’s not yet evident that obesity can be a direct cause of diabetes in your dog.

The fact is if your dog’s overweight and suffering from diabetes, it can promote insulin resistance, and also, this condition makes diabetes harder to manage.


Your neutered male is more susceptible to diabetes than your female pet.

The reason behind this is yet to be discovered.

Existing Medical Conditions

Too much growth hormone (acromegaly), prolonged use of steroid drugs, and Cushing’s disease are believed to be contributing factors.

In some cases, diabetes goes away once Cushing’s disease is treated or once you withdraw steroids.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Diabetes

There are three hallmark signs to watch out for in your pet as unexplained weight loss despite increased food consumption, increased water intake, and frequent urination.

Other symptoms that you may note in your dog include urinary tract infections, loss of eyesight, tiredness/lethargy, lack of appetite, and vomiting.

If you notice these tell-tale signs, it’s advisable to pay a visit to your vet.

Common Complications

Most cases aren’t complicated and may not necessarily need hospital care.

Treatment can be given at home unless your dog’s ill, not eating, or vomiting.


Diabetic cataracts can cause blindness in your dog.

The risk seems to increase with age, even for correctly managed patients.

Within 6 to 16 months of diabetes diagnosis, you’ll be able to tell if your dog is developing a clouding of the lens of the eye and deal with the complication in its early stages.

Your dog will undergo surgery to remove the lens and have artificial ones fixed.

If you fail to detect cataracts in the early stages, inflammation sets in, triggering pupil constriction, pain, and redness of the eyes.

This is a sad situation for your dog to experience painful vision six months later after surgery.


Research experts say that 40% of dogs with diabetes develop Pancreatitis.

Hepatic disease

This is another problem of the liver where enzyme levels rise.

Diabetes changes the fat metabolism mechanism resulting in Liver disease.

Urinary Tract Infections

UTIs are the most popular among diabetic dogs, and you should take your pet for urine culture regularly.

It’s treatable with antibiotics for a length of six to eight weeks.

The rise of sugar in urine makes the bladder a right breeding environment for bacteria.

Mouth and Gums infections

Your diabetic pet is also vulnerable to dental disease.

Tartar on the teeth sows the body with infection-causing bacteria, which exposes the heart and kidneys to infections.

Frequent dental checks and brushing your dog’s teeth daily or a minimum of 2 days a week is highly recommended.

Diabetic Nephropathy

This is a kidney problem that will take an inordinate length of time to show in your dog.

The initial sign is elevated levels of albumin in urine ensued by a rise in urine protein and hypertension.

This combination of complications in your dog results in kidney damage.

Luckily, with improved levels of sugar, early changes may be reversed.

Diabetic Nephropathy is rare in dogs, though quite popular in cats.

The Life Expectancy Of Dogs With Diabetes

You shouldn’t worry about your diabetic dog going too soon.


All you need is to learn about diabetes management.

Your diabetic pet’s survival rate is very similar to those of healthy dogs of the same age and gender.

Just be keen to follow the recommended treatment regime.

Diabetic related complications are the ones likely to kill your dog but not diabetes itself.

The highest risk is within the first 6 months of treatment, but once the condition stabilizes, you and your lovely pet can enjoy an active and healthy life.

Effective Management of Diabetes

Now that you’ve learned the fundamentals of diabetes let’s look at how you can effectively manage your diabetic dog.

Insulin Management

It’s correct to say that diabetic dogs are all type 1 diabetics because whether your dog is type 1 or type 2, they all need insulin administration for the rest of their lives.

This is so because the oral treatments used by type 2 human beings don’t work in dogs.

There are various types of insulin in the market, and you may wonder which kind best suits your diabetic dog.

The best advice when it comes to treatment should be from your vet because your dog’s response may vary with others, and it may take experimentation to find out the right product for your dog.

The variable in insulin is in terms of onset, peak, and duration of action.

Intermediate-acting insulin goes well with most dogs.

Other diabetics do best with long-acting insulin or a combination of various types.

Some pet lovers with diabetic dogs say Humulin N insulin works superbly with dogs on a raw diet.

We can also vouch for Porcine, a combination of pigs and human insulin closely resembling insulin that dogs produce.

Beef insulin, which was being administered before the arrival of other varieties, is no longer endorsed for dogs as it was later discovered to produce anti-insulin antibodies.

If you’re worried about the cost implication, you may opt to shop at Walmart, whose Humulin insulin price is fair compared to vets and some pharmacies.

It’s the same product that Eli Lilly manufactures and distributes to pharmacies, so you’re assured of quality.

Insulin is usually given two times a day, either immediately before or after a meal.

You will find it safer to feed your diabetic dog first before medication to ensure that the insulin finds a full stomach.

If by chance, you administer insulin before a meal and for some reason, your dog refuses or delays eating, the effect would be grievous.

Tips And Usage

Throw away insulin bottles within six eight weeks, strictly use new insulin and the appropriate syringe.

Before you get the hang of injecting your dog, you may have the vet supervise you to avoid the risk of a failed outcome.

You will gradually find it a simple task to administer the shots because your pet isn’t likely to mind those “thin-needle” injections.

Another way to woo your pet into fuss-free injections is by giving treats after the shots.

You will learn more about the safe treats for your diabetic dog later in this article.

The conventional way of administering insulin is by syringe.

Take out the needle cap, pull the plunger back to the prescribed dose level, stab the needle on the top of the insulin bottle, which is spongy, and press down on the plunger.

Before injecting your dog, please ensure there are no air bubbles, it may sound daunting, but it’s not.

With new technology, a new method has evolved, and it’s becoming popular – insulin pens.

Affix the needle tip to the pen, dial a dose on the cell, stick the information into your pup’s skin, and press a button on the pen – Injection happens.

The pen method sounds cool but has shortcomings, such as the availability of needle tips long enough to penetrate your pet’s thick skin and that the inventors have only availed a few types of insulin in a pen format.

If you’re using the traditional syringe format, ascertain whether the insulin concentration and syringes match every time you obtain new supplies.

Insulin syringes are uniquely designed and indicated in insulin units (e.g., U-100 syringes for 100 unit/cc insulins or U-40 syringes for 40 unit/cc insulins).

The wrong amount of insulin dose is too dangerous for your dog.

Management By Monitoring

After finding which insulin works best for your dog and becoming a pro in administering shots, you may take a breath but don’t forget to keep your patient under a medical check-up timetable until she stabilizes.

Pay a visit to your vet every one-two weeks until your dog is fully regulated.

Once the vet confirms that your loved one is doing well, you may space vet visits every three to six months to get the standard examination, blood test, urinalysis, and urine culture.

Periodical Fructosamine and Ketoacidosis tests are the other monitoring examinations worth including in your calendar.

You can carry out the tests from home but ensure your vet explains to you in detail what you require and how to go about it.

Fructosamine test

Assessing fructosamine (glycated serum protein) is a useful way to gauge blood sugar.

The only limitation is that the test doesn’t distinguish erratic swings of high to low readings but gives you the average blood glucose seen over a week or two.

But let not this limitation discourage you from periodically carrying out the test.

It’s worth the life of your dog.

Ketoacidosis test

When fatty acids are broken down for energy in the liver and kidneys, a water-soluble compound is produced called Ketones.

Ketoacidosis is the condition brought about by dangerously elevated levels of ketones and can lead to diabetic coma or even the death of your pet.

Ketostix is an effective way to do home-testing for ketones in the urine and are readily available in pharmacies.

If you get a positive deep stick three days in a row, don’t hesitate to take your dog to the vet without delay.

Noticeable symptoms when ketones level run high include lethargy, nausea, and appetite loss.

Management by Diet

Choosing the best diabetic dog diet can be beneficial for your dog.

The bottom line is, there’s no single recommended diet for your type 1 diabetic dog, unlike in people and cats with type 2 diabetes that is strictly advised to eat a low carbohydrate-high protein diet.

Regulation in both types is achievable by a balance of diet, exercise, and insulin.

Rest assured that therapeutic diets won’t be in many ways appealing to your pet.

A high fiber diet seems to be the best choice for your diabetic dog.

Keep your dog away from bread, sweet treats, and soft-moist diets, as in most cases, sugars are used as preservatives.

If it becomes challenging to alter your dog’s diet, you will need to work out a regulation around whatever she will eat willingly.

However, if your patient carries another illness, you will need to feed a diet suitable for that illness.

The best advice is to maintain the same feeding hours, type, and amount of food for your diabetic dog at all times, every day – 2 meals a day with an approximate gap of 12 hours apart.

Changes in carbohydrates affect the level of blood glucose, thereby affecting the amount of insulin needed.

You don’t want to risk giving an overdose or under-dose to your pet, neither can you change the dosage without your vet studying the glucose curve where you will need to record the levels every 2 to 4 at least 24 hours.

Nutrition Management

As earlier said, diet is a significant contributor to the blood glucose levels in your dog.

Glycaemic Index (GI) is the gauge that shows the effect of carbohydrates in food on blood sugar.

Diets with low glycemic index release glucose slowly and steadily, and they are recommended because sudden fluctuations can be dangerous to your diabetic dog’s health.

Examples of low-glycemic foods include legumes, some whole grains, fructose, fruits, and vegetables.

Some foods are considered medium-glycemic ones, such as honey, sweet potatoes, brown rice, potatoes, sugar (sucrose), and unprocessed wheat products.

Glucose, white bread, white rice, and wheat bread are among the high-glycemic foods.

Helpful Diets and Feeding Strategies

Disturbingly, there’re very few nutritional studies on dogs with diabetes on record.

You’ll find very controversial debates on a diet in diabetes treatment, especially on fiber and carbohydrates, but we’ve got the following to tell you.

Dietary requirements for your underweight and overweight, diabetic dog differ.

Your dog will react in her unique way from another to varying amounts of fiber and carbohydrates.

Considering that your diabetic pet is at a greater risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, we advocate for foods rich in omega-3 fish oils.

Avoid fatty diets to curb elevating other concurrent diseases that your dog may be having, such as pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease, high cholesterol, etc.

So, this means that a low-fat diet is not a necessity but a safety measure.

With the GI control in mind, you might end up feeding too many carbohydrates to your patient; therefore, you should increase protein when you lower fat to avoid adverse effects.

If your dog is overweight, keep the protein amount regular but if she’s underweight, increase the protein.

Once you’ve successfully managed to control diabetes in your overweight pet and don’t see any improvement in her weight (weight loss), you may be giving too much insulin, so get the dosage reviewed.

Suppose your underweight dog doesn’t seem to add weight even after a successful glycemic control, and you’re feeding her properly and avoiding diets with too much fiber.

In that case, the likely cause is digestion interference by some concurrent complication.

Facts On Carbohydrates And Canine Diabetes

There’s a real connection between the carbohydrate content in a meal and the dosage of insulin required.

This is because carbohydrates are the highest contributor to changes in the levels of blood glucose.

The source or type of carbohydrate matters less.

To avoid the dangers of adjusting insulin dosage now and then, you should maintain a constant amount of carbohydrates in your dog’s diet.

As a diabetic dog owner, what you need is the know-how of specific carbohydrates’ effects on glucose.

Simple carbohydrates are a no-go zone for your dog as they will cause extreme rapid glucose spikes, e.g.

Sugars such as corn syrup or propylene glycol.

Starches (complex carbohydrates) are a better choice though the rate of digestion may, to some point, be affected by processed food.

Also, note that the highly digestible diets in the market for dogs with sensitive stomachs should be left.

They may not be the best for your diabetic pet.

Highly digestible diets designed for dogs with sensitive stomachs can contribute to higher blood glucose levels, which is not the best thing for your diabetic dog.

Facts On Fiber And Canine Diabetes

Though you may work out regulation on whatever food is appealing to your dog, diets with high-fiber preference slow down sugar absorption.

Fiber (roughage) also appears to help with regulation by making the tissues more insulin-sensitive.

Fiber, which is the indigestible portion of plant foods, reduces the emptying of gastric and digestion of carbohydrates, which decelerates glucose release.

Your diabetic dog may still do fine with a moderate fiber diet, so you don’t need to worry about increasing the amount.

In most cases, if your dog has poor glycemic control, it will gain from an increase in fiber.

Two types of fiber will behave differently once consumed.

Soluble Fiber

Тхис will create gases in your lovely pet as it ferments in the colon.

It’s therefore understandable why too much of it can cause your dog to diarrhea and feel gassy.

You should introduce a fiber diet in small doses and increase it bit by bit to circumvent this side effect.

Wheat dextrin, Lactulose, psyllium, pectins, and guar gum are some examples of soluble fiber.

Insoluble Fiber

This fiber doesn’t ferment; hence doesn’t create intestinal gases but absorbs water as it moves through the digestive tract.

Insoluble fiber has several advantages, such as increasing the stool volume, regulating intestinal transit time by speeding it when your dog becomes constipated, and slowing it in case of diarrhea.

An example of a product with insoluble fiber is Citrucel (methylcellulose)

It may assist in controlling glucose levels, and it’s also highly tolerable even in high doses.

But be careful when feeding your diabetic dog because insoluble fiber given in large quantities tends to bind minerals hence lowering the diet’s nutrient value.

Apart from diarrhea, constipation, and flatulence, other general side effects you may note in your pet are weight loss, giant feces, loss of appetite, vomiting, and soft coat quality.

Instead, you would not increase fiber amounts if you find that your patient is repelling food due to the fiber’s taste or texture, underweight, or suffers harmful side effects.

An increase in insoluble fiber should coincide with an increase in fluids for your pet because of the absorption mentioned above of water through the digestive tract.

Treats Management

You can treat your diabetic dog with bites that are low in sugar and carbohydrates.

We recommend things like green beans(raw, cooked, canned, or frozen), sardines or tuna packed in water, crunchy snap peas or carrot sticks, freeze-dried liver, hard-boiled eggs.

Little amounts of plain canned pumpkin, dried salmon, chicken feet, bully sticks, dried beef tendons, and cheese-but be careful of too much fat in cheese.

The cost of dried meat or poultry made in the U.S. is high.

You can do homemade dehydrated snap peas, poultry, meats, and carrots by drying in a food dehydrator or baking in a slow oven at 250 – 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

For meat and poultry, you will first need to cut them into thin slices.

Give your dog snacks between meals, and always read the labels on products to note the ingredients used.

Try as much as possible to steer away from those that have maltose, molasses, fructose, propylene glycol, and syrup.

Avoid treats made in China, especially chicken jerky, also referred to as tenders or strips.

They’ve been allegedly associated with kidney failure in dogs.

Exercise Management

Your puppy needs to be physically active.

For example, if the exercise you choose is walking and playing with your dog, ensure you maintain the same intensity and period every day.

Exercise can help reduce your pet’s weight and lower blood sugar levels as well.

Don’t get too absorbed enjoying playtime, as unusually vigorous and prolonged workouts may cause your dog’s blood sugar to drop to dangerous levels.

Your dog’s health status, size, and breed will dictate the specific amount of exercise needed, and it’s only a vet who can guide you on this.

Supplements And Canine Diabetes

The general idea here is some supplements should be given with caution or not at all and that only a few may help your diabetic dog.

Another general rule is that if you opt for human supplements, large dogs can have the full adult human dose, half the human dose to medium-sized dogs, and a quarter of the human dose to small dogs.

If you own the very tiny dogs, you will then give an even smaller dose!

Let’s look at some of the supplements that you may come across in the market.


It’s an essential amino acid that aids in the metabolism of fatty acids.

You will require 50 mg per 1 kg of dry food.

An excellent source of L-Carnitine is beef, with around 80 mg per 3-ounce portion.


You can only give it if your dog lacks chromium.

Chromium is for type 2 diabetes humans and won’t help even your type 1 diabetic dog.


Too much zinc in your dog is toxic though it’s a very crucial mineral for diabetic patients.

If you’re supplementing, limit the amount to a standard human or canine daily.

We recommend 300mg combined EPA and DHA for 20 – 30 pounds of body weight per day.

If your pet has hyperlipidemia or kidney disease, give 300mg for 10 pounds of body weight.

Omega-3 will positively impact your pet by regulating the immune system, reducing blood lipid levels and inflammation.

Your dog will be safer if this dosage is split between meals.

Probiotics And Cranberry Extract

These are known to help prevent UTIs much, and you can comfortably introduce them to your dog in the right doses without any side effects.

If your diabetic dog has had pancreatitis, she may benefit more from digestive enzymes than others.

Take note that you will need a prescription if your patient has EPI.


Recent studies have refuted reports from past researchers who said that glucosamine raises blood sugar.

If you’re introducing glucosamine to your pet, it’s advisable to observe blood sugar levels just to be sure.

Final Thoughts

Glucocorticoid treatment and concurrent pancreatitis, type of breeds, neutered males, and middle-aged dogs are linked to how you take care of a dog with diabetes.

Diabetes hardly exists in dogs aged less than one year.

Further research on the link between obesity and diabetes in your dog has not been fully explored.

Researchers have in many data shown survival rates to be associated with age, breed, and neutering.

Early diagnosis, Insulin treatment/management, and blood glucose level at the time of diagnosis are shown to have a tremendous effect on your patient’s survival rate.

We believe that these factors and the article as a whole will aid you and other professionals in the journey of managing your diabetic dog.

Do not deny your pet a full life by worrying too much about the diagnosis to the extent of giving up on helping her survive.

Make caring for your diabetic dog a family affair so that when you take holidays or are committed to some other errands, you won’t fret about leaving your companion in a kennel.

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