How To Prevent Diabetes In Dogs

How To Prevent Diabetes In Dogs

Shockingly, statistics indicate that 1 out of 200 dogs will develop diabetes in their lifetime¹.  Fortunately for our canine friends, due to improvements in diet, exercise, and veterinary medicine, dogs are living longer and healthier lives after a diagnosis of diabetes. Diabetes in dogs is not curable but it is treatable and preventable.  The United Kingdom’s Royal Veterinary College identifies two forms of diabetes in dogs: insulin-deficiency diabetes (IDD) and insulin-resistance diabetes (IRD). Neither matches human diabetes exactly.

Diabetes in Dog is a Life-Threatening Disease


Insulin Deficiency Diabetes: 


Dogs lose the ability to keep glucose levels under control. IDD causes genetic defects, inflammation of the pancreas and attacks the immune system.


Insulin Resistance Diabetes: 


The dog’s insulin no longer functions property for a variety of reasons, including, pregnancy, endocrine disease, steroids, or progesterone-like hormones.


Once a dog contracts diabetes, it must be managed, or it will become devastating to your dog’s health and is life threatening without medical care.  After a diagnosis of IDD or IRD diabetes, medications that regulate glucose, regular monitoring of blood glucose levels, exercise, and adjustments in diet are critical to a dog’s survival and quality of life.


Additional complications of diabetes include:


  • Cataracts
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Kidney disease
  • Retina disease
  • Nerve disease
  • Gum disease
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Skin and other infections


 Diabetes Prevention in Dogs

 To help keep dog’s healthy and prevent diabetes, dogs should:


  • Maintain proper weight
  • Lose weight, if needed
  • Eat a high protein diet, high quality grain free diet unless otherwise prescribed by a vet
  • Avoid too many sugary and high fat snacks
  • Engage in 20 mins to 1 hour of aerobic exercise at least several days a week


Risk factors of Canine Diabetes

Factors that increase the risk of a dog developing diabetes include:


  • Obesity
  • Age (diabetes usually appears in middle aged dogs)
  • Gender (female dogs and neutered male dogs are more likely to contract diabetes¹)
  • Diet (diets that are high in fat increases diabetes risk)
  • Virus infections
  • Pancreas problems
  • Inflammation of the small bowel
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Long term use of steroids
  • Breed (A study published in the Veterinary Journal in 2003 examined diabetes rates in thousands of American dogs and found that overall, mixed-breed dogs were more prone to diabetes than purebreds. Among purebreds, breeds varied greatly in their susceptibility.)


Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs


Diabetes is a silent killer and not all dogs will develop symptoms so well dog visits should be included in your overall plans to keep your dog healthy. The following are symptoms of canine diabetes. This symptom list is not exhaustive or a replacement for veterinary care. Should any changes in your dog’s health occur, it is always best to have your dog evaluated by your vet.


  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased urination
  • Bathroom accidents in house
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Reluctance to run, walk or play
  • Loss of energy
  • Impaired vision
  • Blindness
  • Cataracts
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney failure


Treatment of Diabetes in Dogs


If your dog develops diabetes the impact the disease will have on your dog’s health can be devastating and may shorten your dog’s life span and also affect quality of life.  Frequent appointments with the veterinarian, lab tests, exams and medication will all be required.  So, doing whatever you can to prevent this disease is very important.


The goal of treatment is to keep your dog’s blood glucose levels stable and in a safe range. To accomplish this, your vet will instruct you on diet, blood glucose monitoring at home, prescribe twice daily insulin injections for your dog and possible urine testing. Obviously, it is much easier to avoid diabetes in most cases than treating the disease.  Diabetes treatment is also costly, according to Veterinary Pet Insurance VPI Pet Insurance claims data, “more than $1.5 million in veterinary expenses was filed by policyholders in 2007. The average amount spent at each veterinary visit to treat the condition? More than $200.”

¹Shawna S. Roberts, PhD



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