Does your dog show signs of lethargy, excessive thirst or frequent urination? If so, your pet could have canine diabetes. November is Pet Diabetes Month, so let’s learn more about this condition and some recommendations for appropriate care.


You’re not alone if you didn’t realize your dog or cat could develop diabetes. But it is a condition that can be shared among our pets. There’s no cure for diabetes, but proper care can help your dog live an active, happy and healthy life.

Your veterinarian is the only one who can diagnose diabetes and provide a management program, but the more you know about the disease, the better you’ll be able to find success in managing your dog’s health.

What is Canine Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common hormonal diseases which affects the concentration of glucose, or sugar, in your dog’s body. Most diabetic dogs have Type 1 diabetes, which means that the condition is not caused by poor diet or being overweight. Instead, it’s usually an abnormal autoimmune response that results in your dog’s pancreas making too little insulin, or not processing insulin properly.

The level of insulin determines how your dog’s body uses food. During the digestion process, food is broken down into very small components, including carbohydrates. The carbohydrates are then converted into many kinds of simple sugars, including glucose. When it reaches the intestines, glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream where insulin moves it into cells so it can be used for energy.

Without enough insulin in the body, blood sugar levels rise to dangerously high levels. Your dog may want to eat constantly, but still appear undernourished. This is because the cells can’t absorb glucose and are essentially being starved. While Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, it can be managed with twice daily insulin shots, appropriate diet and exercise.

Treatment of Canine Diabetes

Many things affect blood sugar levels, so treatment can be somewhat of a balancing act. What your dog eats, the amount he eats, how much exercise he gets, his stress levels and hormonal fluctuations – they all play into your dog’s blood sugar levels. A consistent routine is critical to keeping a diabetic dog healthy. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Feed your dog the same amount and type of food about every 12 hours.
  • Give insulin shots right after meals. This allows you to lower the dose if he eats less than normal.
  • Exercise in the same way and at the same time each day.
  • Avoid stressful situations and surroundings.
  • Female dogs should be spayed to prevent more hormonal changes due to being in heat.
  • Keep in close communication with your vet to adjust the program, if needed.

What to Feed Your Diabetic Dog

Dogs with Type 1 diabetes should eat foods that are higher in fiber and low in carbohydrates. Prescription dog foods are a good choice for meeting these criteria. Plus, their manufacturing processes are tightly controlled, so each bag is essentially identical to the next. This is important for maintaining the consistency required in managing diabetes.

Another option would be an over-the-counter dog food designed for weight loss. These also tend to be higher in fiber and lower in sugar. Any good quality dog food can be matched with the appropriate dose of insulin to manage your dog’s diabetes.

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