Origins of dog diabetes symptoms

Many symptoms may arise in diabetic dogs. Some signs of dog diabetes may sometimes remain unnoticed as for weight loss, increased thirst or hunger, lethargy, fatigue. Others will be certainly spotted by the owner. This is the case for skin disorders, or excessive urination, especially for dogs living indoor. Often dog diabetes is diagnosed late, when complications are already present. The symptoms of diabetes complications are more severe and rarely ignored. Dog’s initial signs of diabetes get worse and more noticeable. Other symptoms appear: blindness, vomiting, diarrhea … The situation is quite the same for diabetes concurrent diseases, the diseases that are more often present in diabetic dogs than in non-diabetics although the reason for this co-occurence remain unknown. Diabetes treatment also may cause symptoms. A too high dose of injected insulin, for instance, can cause hypoglycemic symptoms such as shaking, trembling, rapid and heavy breathing, panting, seizures… In general diabetes symptoms are not specific to the disease. The diagnosis of diabetes relies on lab analysis that will be performed by your vet. Recognizing diabetes symptoms are important for the owner of dogs in which diabetes has been diagnosed: the presence and the intensity of symptoms will allow him/her to assess the efficacy of the treatment and help provide the attending vet with consistent information.

The evolution of the symptoms in diabetic dogs – infographics

The onset of symptoms in diabetic dogs is progressive. They usually appears when the concentration of glucose in the blood has reached a certain level “called the renal threshold” and sugar has started to spill from the blood into the urine. The symptoms are often mild and may be not noticed by the owner until more visible complications symptoms appear. Eye disorders are a very frequent reason for consulting a vet and this is an occasion for discovering an underlying diabetes. Diabetic Ketoacidosis is an unvoidable consequence of an untreated diabetes. The symptoms are severe and should bring the owner to vist a vet. It complicates diabetes treatment and may cause death. Treatment side-effects may also endanger the dog’s life. If the injected insulin reduces too strongly blood glucose, it will cause hypoglycemic symptoms. They are very severe and may also be fatal. Dealing with associated diseases is a complex issue.They are more frequent in diabetic dogs and yet, many of them are relatively rare. Cushing’s, hypothyroidsm, kidney disease, cancer are diseases that are quite challenging for your vet. In summary, diabetes needs to be treated well right from the start for suppressing symptoms, avoiding complications and decreasing the likelyhood of concurrent diseases. If well treated, the dog will have a long and normal life.

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Symptoms of diabetes in dogs infographic

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Dog diabetes: list of symptoms: interpret the signs of diabetes in dogs

Blindness in diabetic dogs

Diabetes in dogs may cause blindness. Eye problems are the most frequent complications of diabetes and cause a lot of concern among owners. Prolonged impregnation of the eye by high concentration of glucose cause ocular damages. If untreated, these diseases will eventually cause your dog to get blind. There are 3 types of eye disorders in diabetic dogs:


A cataract is a cloudiness or opacity in the normally transparent crystalline lens of the eye. This cloudiness can cause a decrease in vision and may lead to eventual blindness. Cataract will be detected by the owner because of the dog’s more composed attitude than when it was younger. Fortunately, cataracts can be treated by surgery, and many of the dogs recover vision. Other causes of cataract: malnutrition, radiation, inflammation, and trauma. More information on cataract in dogs :


Glaucoma is often preceded by uveitis. It is characterized by high intraocular pressure. Aqueous humor slowly and consistently increases in the eye. As for cataract, it is not easily detectable by the owner and does not cause pain to the dog at the early stages. Glaucoma is one of the causes of dogs’ red eyes. It leads to progressive, but irreversible optic nerve lesion and eventually to permanent vision loss, if untreated. Treatment is surgical or medical or both. Other causes of glaucoma: genetics, uveitis, inflammation, cancer. More information on glaucoma in dogs


Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea. The uvea gathers the middle layers of the eye. The uvea includes the iris, the choroid, and the ciliary body. This zone is highly vascularized, and therefore very exposed to the large amounts of glucose brought by the blood of a diabetic dog. Uveitis is often painful. Other causes of uveitis: idiopathic, trauma, bacterial or viral infection, worm infection, high blood pressure, tumors. More information on canine uveitis

Diabetic dog shaking and trembling

When your diabetic dog displays the symptoms of leg and muscle weakness, weak legs, dog trembling, shivering, shaking head, it means that it is hypoglycemic. This is a side effect of the treatment. Insulin is acting too strongly. The dose may be not adapted anymore to your dog’s condition, or you injected too much insulin or your dog didn’t eat its entire ration. In this case you have to provide your dog with carbohydrate rich food. If the symptoms do not resolve contact your vet without delay: hypoglycemia is quite a dangerous condition. More information on canine hypoglycemia

Vomiting/refusing to eat

Your dog refusing to eat and/or vomiting are important symptoms of canine diabetes. They may warn you that your dog is now suffering from Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), which is the most dangerous complication of diabetes. You should contact your vet with no delay. More information on Diabetic Ketoacidosis Vomiting can also be caused by the underlying presence of pancreatitis that is the cause of dog diabetes in more than 30% of the cases. More information on pancreatitis

Panting diabetic dogs, rapid and heavy breathing

Panting may come from a disease associated with your dog’s diabetes : Cushing’s syndrome. Cushing’s more prominent symptom is an enlarged, pendulous abdomen. Do not hesitate to contact your vet about this disease that requires a specific treatment. Other causes of panting in dogs: heart disease, respiratory disease. More on information on Cushing’s syndrome


Seizures and coma are signs that your diabetic dog is hypoglycemic. Insulin is acting too strongly. These are severe symptoms that require that you feed at once your dog with a treat or syrup with high carbohydrates content (for example honey or maple being put on the gums if the dog cannot eat). Then call your vet or an emergency veterinary service.

Weight loss, polyphagia, weakness, lethargy

Your diabetic dog is losing weight? This is one of the initial signs of diabetes in dogs. Although a diabetic dog is usually hungry all the time, it cannot use properly its carbohydrates. Its body cells cannot use glucose when insulin is lacking. Therefore, they use other sources of energy such as proteins. In order to satisfy the cells’ needs, proteins are catabolized (catabolism=destructive metabolism) and eventually broken. This makes the organism starve for proteins causing weakness, weight loss and increased hunger.


Your diabetic dog has diarrhea: it may mean that it suffers from Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). Diabetic Ketoacidosis comes from the fat being used as source of energy in the body instead of glucose. It produces an excess of ketones in the blood that act like a poison. DKA is a dangerous condition that shows that your dog’s diabetes is not controlled well enough. Contact your vet. Other causes of diarrhea: Change in diet, food intolerance, ingestion of poisonous or toxic substances allergic reaction, bacterial or viral infection, internal parasites, such as roundworms, coccidia and giardia, inflammation of the bowel , kidney disease, liver disease, cancer or other tumors of the digestive tract, drugs, colitis, stress, gastroenteritis. More about diarrhea in dogs

Blood in urine

Your diabetic dog may have blood in the urine as a consequence of a urinary tract infection (UTI) which is a common complication of diabetes in dogs. Bacteria growth benefits from the presence of glucose in the urine. It results sometimes in microscopic hematuria. You will need to consult your vet who will probably prescribe an anti-infective. More about UTI in dogs In more rare cases, blood in urine comes from kidney disease, another complication of canine diabetes. This is a serious condition that also requires you consult your vet. More information about kidney disease in dogs Other causes of blood in the urine: urinary tract infection, kidneys infection, bladder or kidney stones, enlarged prostate, kidney disease, cancer, inherited disorders

Skin problem

A diabetic dog may have skin problems. Its hair coat may be affected: it becomes dull, rough and dry. A common diabetes concomitant disease, Cushing’s symptom (hyperadrenocorticism) causes more severe skin conditions such as hair loss and itchy skin.

Bad smell

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), the unavoidable complication of untreated diabetes and kidney disease, a frequent concomitant disease of diabetes both may cause your diabetic dog bad breath. DKA comes from the increasing concentration of ketones in the blood that inevitably results in a strong acetone odor coming from your animal’s mouth. Chronic Kidney disease cause the accumulation of uremic toxins in the blood that cause your dog exhibit a strong bad smell.

Weight gain

Dogs with diabetes usually lose weight. Nevertheless, if your dog also suffer from Cushing’s syndrome (hyperadrenocorticism), which is one of the main concomitant disease of diabetes, it may fatten up. Cushing’s change the metabolism and lead to the accumulation of fat in the belly known as the pendulous abdomen symptom. More information on Cushing’s in dogs

Excessive urination

“My diabetic dog is peeing in house”, “my diabetic dog is peeing a lot” or “my diabetic dog pees everywhere” are common comments of owners whose diabetic dog has excessive urination. This is a common sign of canine diabetes. When glucose starts spilling into the urine, it attracts water from the neighboring tissues. The volume of urine increases and more urine is produced. For compensating this loss of fluid, the dog tends to drink more. This is the polyuria (excessive urination)/polydipsia (excessive drinking) syndrome.

Sticky urine

If your dog’s urine is sticky it means that it contains glucose. Glucose spill in into the urine when glucose concentration in the blood has increased enough to reach the “renal threshold”. This is the sign of uncontrolled diabetes that requires that your vet adapt the treatment, probably by increasing the insulin dose.

This page describes in details the various symptoms a diabetic dog may suffer from, including those originating from complications or concurrent diseases.
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