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Diabetes in dogs

Spot the classic symptoms of diabetes so your dog can get treated.

Updated

If your dog is suffering from diabetes, you might notice a few minor symptoms like excessive thirst. But many different symptoms could warrant a vet visit to rule out the condition or learn how to manage it. However, managing diabetes can prove an expensive undertaking unless you have pet insurance.

What is canine diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that involves how a dog’s body processes sugar or uses insulin. Dogs can suffer from several different types of diabetes:

  • Diabetes mellitus. Diabetes mellitus is a much more common form of diabetes, nicknamed sugar diabetes. This form of diabetes happens because the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin or because the body doesn’t use insulin properly.
  • Temporary insulin resistance. A form of diabetes mellitus, some dogs experience problems with regulating sugar and insulin during pregnancy or while in heat.
  • Diabetes insipidus. Diabetes insipidus is a deficiency in producing or using a hormone that helps dogs regulate their body’s water content. This form of diabetes is extremely rare in dogs.

What are the symptoms of diabetes in dogs?

Dogs show different symptoms depending on how advanced the diabetes has progressed without treatment.

Early onset

Classic symptoms that show your dog has diabetes are:
  • Increased appetite because the body isn’t absorbing nutrients properly
  • Weight loss from not absorbing nutrients
  • Excessive urination as the body tries to flush out excess sugar
  • Excessive thirst to make up for the increased urination

Midstage

Several other symptoms may show up in more advanced cases, including:

  • Sweet-smelling or fruity breath
  • Lack of energy
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Lost appetite

Advanced

If left untreated, diabetes can have a severe impact on your dog’s overall health. It can lead to:

  • Cataracts worsening into blindness
  • Chronic skin conditions
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting
  • An enlarged liver
  • Kidney failure
  • Seizures

What causes diabetes in dogs?

Diabetes mellitus is a disease of the pancreas with an unknown cause. However, there are several factors that may contribute to developing the condition:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Obesity
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Steroid medication
  • Cushing’s disease

Just like your car needs fuel to run, the body needs a sugar called glucose to function. Glucose comes from carbohydrates in your dog’s diet, but your dog relies on a crucial hormone called insulin to break glucose down.

In diabetes mellitus, the pancreas fails to regulate blood sugar, leading to high levels of glucose in the blood. Type 1 or insulin-deficient diabetes occurs when the dog’s immune system attacks and destroys beta cells. Type 2 or insulin-resistant diabetes occurs when the body fails to use insulin properly.

Are different types of dogs prone to diabetes?

Yes, dogs face a higher risk of getting diabetes if they include one or more of these characteristics:

  • Breed. Studies have shown that certain breeds face a higher risk for developing diabetes. Examples of at-risk breeds include miniature Poodles, Pugs, Dachshunds and Beagles.
  • Age. Middle-aged and older dogs suffer from diabetes more than other age groups.
  • Gender. Female dogs are more prone to diabetes than male dogs, especially if they’re unspayed.
  • Weight. Obesity can contribute to your dog developing insulin resistance.
  • Diet. Feeding your dog a diet high in fat can lead to pancreatitis. Repeated bouts of pancreatitis may damage the pancreas and cause diabetes.

What treatment will my dog need for diabetes?

Monitoring your dog’s blood sugar level is the main treatment they will need to live a healthy life with diabetes. You may need to give insulin injections, change your dog’s diet and add regular exercise to your dog’s routine.

In some cases, your dog may need close supervision from your vet to monitor and adjust medication. Your vet will then work out the best treatment plan for you to manage the diabetes at home.

Does pet insurance cover diabetes?

Yes, many pet insurance companies cover diabetes, as long as your dog develops the condition after you start coverage and serve the waiting period. A few companies exclude specific conditions like diabetes, so you should review your policy ahead of time to make sure.

However, most insurance companies don’t cover pre-existing conditions. If your dog already suffers from diabetes before you buy a policy, the insurance company won’t provide any protection.

Also, you might not get coverage if your dog gets diagnosed during the policy’s waiting period, typically 14 to 30 days after buying coverage. That includes symptoms of diabetes you may have noticed before the condition was diagnosed.

How can I pay for diabetes care without pet insurance?

If your dog develops diabetes before you buy a pet insurance policy, you can look into these options for paying for care:

  • Local charities or grants. Local charities may offer financial assistance if you qualify for aid.
  • Credit cards. You may choose to make payments through a rewards credit card or using specialized vet care credit.
  • Low-cost clinics. You may find vets with discount prices or specialized programs in your area to help you pay for bills.
  • Payment plan or deferred payments. Your vet’s payment options may include payment plans or delayed payments based on your current financial situation.

Compare pet insurance for diabetic dogs

Name Product Pets covered Seniors accepted Hereditary conditions Chronic illness
Pawp
Dogs, Cats
For $19/month, access 24/7 vet support and $3,000 for one pet emergency a year.
Petplan
Dogs, Cats
Cover unexpected vet bills from emergency exams, injuries, surgery and more.
Embrace
Dogs, Cats
Enjoy extra benefits with coverage for exam fees, curable conditions and wellness visit reimbursement.
Pet Assure
Dogs, Cats, Horses
Save up to 25% on all vet bills including wellness and dental visits for as little as $10/month.
Pets Best
Dogs, Cats
PetFirst
Dogs, Cats
Get coverage starting at $9 per month for cats and $15 for dogs. Talk to an agent at 888-738-0683.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

For dog owners who bought pet insurance ahead of time, your policy can offset vet visits and medication your dog may need to control diabetes. If you didn’t get a policy beforehand, you can look into other options like local charities to shoulder costs. However, consider getting pet insurance for protection from other accidents and illnesses that may affect your furry friend in the future.

Frequently asked questions about diabetes in dogs

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