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How to Spot Diabetes in Dogs: 10 Signs

How to Spot Diabetes in Dogs: 10 Signs

Critter Culture Staff



Diabetes affects up to 1% of dogs during their lifetime, with some breeds being more prone to the disease than others.

The most common type, diabetes mellitus, occurs when the dog's pancreas doesn't make enough insulin, causing the amount of glucose, or blood sugar, to increase to an unhealthy level. There is good news; you can manage canine diabetes and help your doggo live a long and happy life.


Drinking water all the time

A cute rare hairy french bulldog drinking water at the park. Capuski/ Getty Images

One of the most common signs of diabetes in dogs is increased thirst. You might notice that your pup is keeping their face in the water bowl for an excessively long time, or you need to provide refills more often than in the past.

Vets say that dogs need to drink an average of 1 ounce of water for each pound of body weight. So if you want to be really sure your dog is drinking an excessive amount of water, measure how much you give them and how much is left in the bowl at the end of the day and compare it to that average.


Eating more but losing weight

Two cute dogs eating dinner from their food bowls on the floor of their home NickyLloyd/ Getty Images

While even healthy dogs never turn down a treat, dogs with untreated diabetes often seem unusually hungry all the time, scarfing down kibble with urgency and anxiously looking for you to refill their bowls after eating a normal portion.

Increased hunger happens because diabetes makes it hard for the dog's body to convert food to energy, so they feel like they've never had enough.

Not processing nutrients efficiently leads to a breakdown of fat and muscle, so a dog with untreated diabetes almost always loses weight despite eating more food.


Peeing more often

dog peeing outside against a fence TriggerPhoto/ Getty Images

Have you noticed your dog needs to be let out to pee more often or has accidents in the house that seem out of character?

While you'd think that drinking more water would be the leading cause of increased urination, the culprit might be their blood sugar overflowing into the urine and pulling water with it. Basically, it comes down to the kidneys' inability to do their job well because of the overload of glucose in the blood. When glucose levels are brought back under control, this symptom improves.


Acting unusually tired and weak

An elderly labrador is dozing in his bed. Home shooting. Anna_Belova/ Getty Images

Almost every dog has a low-energy day now and then, especially after an exciting day at doggy daycare or the park. But if you notice your pooch seems to tucker out too fast and too often, it's a good idea to get them checked out.

Exhaustion could be tied to a diabetic dog's inability to convert glucose to energy. What's more, the glucose that builds up in their body can create imbalances in electrolytes, leading to muscle stiffness and cramping.


Having frequent infections

Young female veterinarian checking up the dog at the veterinarian clinic Kerkez/ Getty Images

Dogs with diabetes are prone to urinary tract infections. Excess sugar in the urine serves as food for infection-causing bacteria. It also interferes with the normal immune response, making UTIs in diabetic dogs challenging to treat.

Some signs of a UTI in dogs are pain during urination, which can lead to accidents in the house, straining to pee, and passing small amounts of urine. One UTI isn't usually cause for concern, but if your dog has repeated infections, they should be screened for diabetes.


Developing cloudy-looking eyes

Alaskan husky with blue eyes sits in green grass in field tied to chain before training in fall. Ekaterina Kobalnova/ getty Images

Cataracts are a very common side effect of canine diabetes, so if you notice a cloudy appearance in your dog's eyes, get them screened for diabetes in addition to getting their eyes checked.

When a dog has cataracts, proteins in the eyes clump together and form a cloudy mass that eventually blocks their vision, causing blindness. However, cataracts can look similar to other eye conditions, such as age-related hardening of the lens, which don't always lead to complete blindness.


Dulling of the coat and skin

Scottish deerhound dog laying on stone floor indoors, looking bored tired. Lubo Ivanko/ Getty Images

When insulin isn't doing the job it's meant to do, a dog's fur and skin will show signs of poor nutrition.

You could feed your dog the most nutritious food possible, but diabetes interferes with the dog's ability to absorb and use those nutrients, resulting in dry skin and lackluster, thinning fur. Dehydration caused by diabetes can also contribute to dryness and take away the sparkle and shine from a dog's eyes.


Loss of appetite

cute small dog waiting for meal or dinner the dog food. he is lying on the floor and looking at the camera Eva Blanco/ Getty Images

In the early stages of diabetes, many dogs have an increased appetite. But if the disease isn't caught early on, it can progress to a more advanced stage, where a dog will lose interest in eating.

A dog that's being treated for diabetes with insulin injections but is refusing food should see a vet to try to sort the problem out. Making sure your pooch eats regular meals is essential for managing their diabetes and keeping their blood sugar stable.


Sweet-smelling breath

yawning dog in the street adomer/ Getty Images

If you've ever been on a low-carb diet, you might have heard of "ketosis breath." When there's a high number of ketones in the blood, it can cause the breath to smell kind of sweet or similar to the scent of nail-polish remover (that's because one primary ketone is acetone).

Diabetes can also lead to a high level of ketones, adding some sweet fruitiness to their doggy breath.


Acting depressed

Sweet black dog, relaxing on a sofa. Catherine Falls Commercial/ Getty Images

If your pet seems mopey and uninterested in the things that used to get them excited, they could be showing a symptom of diabetes.

Other signs of canine depression are droopy ears and a low-hanging tail. You might also see your dog pacing like they don't know what to do with themselves.

Depression is usually a symptom of advanced diabetes in dogs, so if they seem depressed and have any other potential signals of diabetes, get them to a vet right away.


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