Diabetes is a debilitating and potentially deadly disease for dogs. And while thoughtful and motivated pet parents can manage it effectively, that process will usually prove costly and labor-intensive. It is, unquestionably, a serious problem.
Treatment is possible, and we talk about in “10 Facts You Need To Know About Diabetes In Dogs“. It is vital that pet parents try to catch it early and immediately start taking corrective action.
And that’s why I’m writing this article. My hope is that it will help you identify the signs and symptoms of canine diabetes early, so that you can make the appropriate changes to your dog’s life as quickly as possible if she is in fact suffering from the disease.
Now, before we launch into the five most important symptoms of diabetes in dogs, two quick prefatory notes.
First, understand that diabetes is most often a disease that dogs develop as adults. (The average age of diagnosis is 9 to 10 years.) While early-onset cases exist, they are quite rare. So just because your dog didn’t show any of the signs of diabetes over the first few years of her life doesn’t mean she’s in the clear.
Second, understand that a definitive diagnosis will require your veterinarian’s judgment. The defining characteristic of diabetes is an inability to produce sufficient quantities of the metabolic hormone insulin. And there are a variety of tests your vet can run — some direct and others indirect — that will help her determine whether or not your dog’s insulin levels are normal.
But testing won’t happen unless you bring the matter to your vet’s attention first. Naturally, that’s something you can only do if you know what signs and symptoms to look out for. And that’s where this article comes in.
1) Increased Thirst and Urination
A more easily observed symptom of canine diabetes is increased water consumption and urination.
One of the hallmarks of canine diabetes is that dogs with diabetes tend to urinate more. Why this happens is actually quite straightforward: some glucose can be excreted in urine, so when your dog’s body senses consistently-elevated blood glucose levels, it uses urination as a kind of safety valve to dump as much of the excess as possible.
Increased urination means a loss of water. And this dehydration leads to greater thirst, which is observable to the naked eye as increased water consumption. This is why a marked uptick in water consumption is a diabetes red flag.
Since the amount of water consumed each day isn’t always obvious (and since your dog probably isn’t great at verbally expressing concepts like “thirst”), monitoring urination habits is usually easier. If your dog has been asking to be let out more frequently than usual or if a housebroken dog has begun have accidents inside the home, that’s an important warning sign.
2) Lethargy and Reduce Activity
Diabetes is a metabolic disease and metabolism is the process by which your dog produces the energy her body needs to power its daily activities. So diabetic dogs tend to be somewhat less active than they would be in a healthy state.
It can be difficult to determine whether a slow-down is the result of disease or simply a natural byproduct of aging. So consider it in context. If your dog is also showing one of the other hallmarks of diabetes, that probably warrants a trip to the veterinarian. When it comes to diabetes — a disease that can kill if left untreated — it is probably better to be safe than sorry.