Diabetes in Dogs: Know the Symptoms 

4 min read Jan 12, 2022

November is National Pet Diabetes Month, and if your pet has diabetes, you’re not alone. Many dogs and cats are diagnosed with diabetes during their lifetime.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not process insulinor the body cannot respond correctly to the insulin it produces.  In either case, the disease affects how the body processes blood sugar (glucose), which provides the primary source of energy to muscles, tissues, and the brain.   While diabetes mellitus is common in people, many people are unaware that the disease commonly affects dogs.  

Common Types of Diabetes Diagnosed in Dogs 

The most common type of diabetes diagnosed in dogs is Type 1, or Insulin-Dependent Diabetes (or Insulin Deficiency Diabetes). Dogs diagnosed with this disorder are dependent on daily insulin injections to maintain blood sugar balance.  In Type 2 diabetes, a dog’s body can still produce its own insulin, but the body cannot respond to it.  This is known as Insulin Resistant Diabetes (IRD).   While diabetes cannot be cured, it can be managed so your dog can go on to enjoy a healthy and happy life with you.  Early detection is the key, so know the most common symptoms. 

Frequent Urination 

If you notice puddles on the floor or your dog asking to go out more frequently, this can be a sign.   With diabetes, excess blood sugar that cannot be processed ends up in the urine.  This is because the kidneys can no longer filter it fast enough to keep it in the blood.  

Increased Thirst 

Does your dog appear to be endlessly thirsty?  You might think it is because he is urinating so frequently.  However, the more he urinates, the more dehydrated he becomes.   So if you are noticing these symptoms and he hasn’t been more active than usual, it’s a good idea to bring your pup in to see the vet.  

Weight Loss Without a Change in Diet

If your dog is eating regularly and loses weight, either suddenly or gradually, this can be a symptom of diabetes.   When insulin is not working to break down glucose, your pet’s cells become starved of necessary nutrients. As a result, the body begins to use muscle and fat as energy sources instead, thus leading to weight loss.  

Increase in Appetite 

You may notice your dog has an increase in appetite, also known as polyphagia. Your dog might be hungrier because the amino acids that are needed by the cells are not getting into the cells or are not being used properly.  

Lethargy or Lack of Energy 

Lack of activity or lack of energy to participate in his usual activities with you are a common symptom of dogs with diabetes.    What happens is sugar becomes trapped in your dog’s bloodstream, and the body does not receive the glucose necessary for energy.  

Cloudy Looking Eyes 

Many dogs with diabetes will eventually develop cataracts as a longterm complication.   

Vision Difficulties 

Diabetic dogs are at an increased risk of blindness.  Diabetic cataracts can also cause vision impairment.   Both cataract development and vision loss can happen quickly or over a long period.  Some vision loss can be repaired with surgery.   

Lackluster Coat and Skin 

If diabetes goes untreated, a dog will become chronically dehydrated from the loss of water through its urine.  This results in dry and scaly looking skin. The coat will lose its luster and shine.  The good news is that this will improve with treatment.  

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) 

Dogs often develop infections of the urinary tract secondary to diabetes.  This is because the increased sugar in the urine creates a favorable breeding ground for bacteria in the dog’s bladder.    

Muscle Weakness 

If you notice your dog has difficulty moving around or lying down, this is likely due to stiffness or muscle weakness.  A lack of glucose getting to the muscles can cause trouble with strength and movement. This may be particularly noticeable in the hind legs.  

Get Your Dog Checked Out

Just as in humans, diabetes in dogs is a manageable disease.  Early intervention is crucial to the successful management of the illness.  If you notice any of the symptoms above, have your pet checked by his or her veterinarian.  

Consider Investing in Dog Insurance  

Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1   Get your free quote today. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.   

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.