Just like humans, dogs can suffer from diabetes. And again, just like humans, dogs can suffer from two different types of diabetes: diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus.
It is believed that as many as one in 300 dogs will experience diabetes mellitus, while diabetes insipidus is seen more rarely.
This article was reviewed by our expert veterinarian, Chris Vanderhoof (DMV).
What is Dog Diabetes Mellitus?
Diabetes mellitus in dogs is also sometimes referred to as “sugar diabetes”, and it is known to be the most common of the two types. Some experts believe that one in every 300 dogs can suffer from diabetes mellitus.
With this type, known as endocrine disease, the dog’s pancreas isn’t functioning at full capacity. Because of this, your poor pooch will make too little insulin and struggle to regulate their blood sugar levels. Some other disease conditions, like Cushing’s disease where too much steroid hormone is produced by the body, can also cause your dog’s body to react in an abnormal way to naturally produced insulin
What is Dog Diabetes Insipidus?
Diabetes insipidus in dogs is a disorder of a dog’s pituitary gland. The gland naturally produces a hormone called vasopressin (also called antidiuretic hormone, ADH), which is necessary for proper kidney function. When a dog suffers from diabetes insipidus, the function of the gland is impaired and can lead to a reduction in the hormone’s production. Some cases of diabetes insipidus in dogs present themselves as kidney resistance to vasopressin.
The latter is medically known as nephrogenic diabetes insipidus in dogs – NDI.
The former is known as central diabetes insipidus – CDI.
Diabetes insipidus in dogs is far less common than diabetes mellitus. Many experts would classify it as rare.
What Causes Diabetes Insipidus in Dogs?
A huge number of factors are taken into account with looking at doggy diabetes and its causes. Both the diagnosis and treatment depend on finding the root cause of the problem and then actively targeting it.
Diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus are more common in older dogs, aged five and above.
It is also more common in female doggos who have not been spayed.
Certain dog breeds are diagnosed with diabetes more commonly, too. These include:
- Bichon Frise;
- Miniature Schnauzer;
- Terrier – Australian, Cairn, Fox.
Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs
The two different types of diabetes will present themselves in different ways, but diabetes insipidus will usually come with the following symptoms:
- Urinating a lot more frequently;
- Drinking a lot more water;
- Obvious weight loss;
- Loss of appetite;
- Symptoms of dehydration – panting, repeatedly licking lips, vomiting, diarrhea, very dry gums, and nose.
Read more: How Much Water Does Your Pet Need?
How Common is Blindness in Dogs with Diabetes?
Due to abnormalities with glucose metabolism in the lens of the eye, dogs with diabetes mellitus can develop cataracts and subsequent blindness. It is thought that, sadly, as many as three-quarters of all dogs with diabetes mellitus will go blind at some point. Because diabetes insipidus does not involve issues with the body regulating glucose, cataracts and blindness do not occur in dogs with this form of diabetes.
The decline of your dog’s eyesight will very much depend on treatment, how speedy the diagnosis is, and other factors; but there is a higher chance that your dog will go blind than not.
This is something you will need to prepare for if you decide to adopt a dog with diabetes mellitus, or you buy/adopt/rescue a breed that is commonly linked with diabetes mellitus. For example, you can always get a Petcube interactive pet camera to see how your doggo behaves when you are away, and whether they exhibit any strange reactions which can be linked to diabetes in dogs.
How Long Can a Dog Live with Diabetes?
With appropriate treatment and a speedy diagnosis, your dog can have a long and healthy life even after being diagnosed with diabetes. The lifespan of a dog with diabetes will vary massively from case to case, but the ‘average’ time frame, given by vets and medical experts, is two to three years following diagnosis. (Most dogs are diagnosed with diabetes aged five and above.)
I am currently sat right next to a snoring bulldog that is still going strong five years after his diagnosis… and he’s a whopping 12 years old now, which is impressive for a British bulldog.
The more specific and bespoke your dog’s diabetes treatment plan, the better the expected dog diabetes life expectancy.
Can Diabetes in Dogs Be Reversed?
In some cases, some components of diabetes in dogs can be reversed to some extent – but the process is long, complex, and isn’t guaranteed to come with great success. It is also quite rare. By the time your dog will have their diabetes diagnosed (when symptoms start to appear), the pancreas is likely too damaged to repair.
The root cause will have a huge part to play in treatment and recovery time. If your pampered pooch is overweight, for example, your vet will recommend a weight-loss oriented diet along with more exercise. This will need to be carefully planned and monitored, however. Too many changes too quickly can cause further illness or injury to your pet.
Underlying conditions, such as Cushing’s disease, can be treated, which will reduce the severity and symptoms of diabetes. The diabetes condition itself will not technically be reversed, however.
For the most part, if your dog is dependent on insulin to control their diabetes, they will continue to be that way for the rest of their life. There are no treatments or home remedies for diabetes in dogs that will undo that, and definitely not overnight.
Note from Dr. Vanderhoof: Similarly, medication prescribed for diabetes insipidus can help resolve your pup’s symptoms, but must continue to be used for the life of your dog to manage the condition.
Get Dog Diabetes Advice From A Vet Online Today!
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How to Prevent Diabetes in Dogs
It is possible to prevent diabetes, to a certain extent – although this does heavily depend on the type of diabetes as well as the root cause behind it.
Overweight pooches that have been pampered more than they have been exercised are at a higher risk of developing diabetes mellitus, so ensuring that your dog gets enough exercise and has a healthy, balanced diet will go a long way to keeping them in good health.
Note from Dr. Vanderhoof: Pancreatitis is big risk factor for dogs and diabetes. Helping dogs to avoid dietary indiscretions like getting into the trash, and staying away from fatty, greasy table food can help reduce pancreatitis risk.
Because diabetes insipidus may be linked to genetics or have an unknown cause, there is no known way to prevent it. But for either form of diabetes, keeping up with regular vet checks will also pick up on any warning signs at an early point. This means that your doggo can get the care they need, as soon as they need it.
What is the average lifespan of a dog with diabetes?
You must bear in mind that it is more common for dogs to be diagnosed with diabetes later on in life, usually once they have reached the age of five or six years old. Most dogs live for at least two years following a diagnosis, but with appropriate care and treatment, your diabetic dog could lead a happy and healthy life for many, many years to come!
What’s the best dog diabetes diet?
The best diet for a dog with diabetes will depend on the type of diabetes they have along with what your vet recommends. Not all diabetic dogs will need to go on a specific diet for weight loss or other purposes.
Safe dog treats for dogs with diabetes
Especially with diabetes mellitus, most dogs will need treats that are not jam-packed full of sugars, so many of your regular, off-the-shelf products will no longer be suitable. Instead, look for foods that contain lots of healthy proteins, such as turkey, chicken, pork liver, and pumpkin. You should also take a look at diabetes-specific dog treat recipes online.