Diabetic Dogs : Frequently Asked Questions

I think my pet may be diabetic, what are the symptoms?

My pet is having problems holding it's urine, does that mean it's diabetic?

No, your pet could have a bladder or kidney infection, or some other medical problem. If your pet is having problems holding it's bladder, you should schedule a trip to the vet A.S.A.P.

How much water should I let my pet drink?
If your pet is diabetic, and drinking excessive amounts of water, give him/her all they can drink. Your pet's body is trying to combat the high blood glucose level by expelling the excess sugar out of their body through the urine. Once your pet is regulated this will stop.

My pet was recently diagnosed, what advice would you give me?
Learn everything you can about diabetes. Talk to your vet, your personal doctor, other owners of diabetic animals, and friends or relatives with diabetes. Your pet's recovery will depend a lot on what you know. You will need to work closely with your veterinarian, and offer your input. Don't be afraid to ask questions, or ask for training from your vet on giving injections and monitoring blood glucose levels.

How long will my pet live after diagnosis?
If your pet is older, the average life span after diagnosis is about 3 years. Each pet is different, and depending on overall health, your pet could live longer than 3 years, or sometimes less than a year.

Is diabetes in animals similar to that of humans?
Yes, it is very similar. When looking for information, don't pass over the information on human diabetes. They are often excellent resources. Your pet will be using the same medications, equipment and monitoring methods as human diabetics use.

What is the importance of making sure my pet is regulated?
If diabetes is left untreated or unregulated, it could cause many complications. These include cataracts, blindness, kidney and liver problems, and in extreme cases, death.

How long does it take to regulate a diabetic animal?
Each pet's case is different. There is no way to put a specific time on it. Sometimes the regulation process will require you to try several different types of insulin, different amounts, and one to multiple injections a day. Regulation can be achieved sometimes within a month, and in some occasions, over a year from the time therapy first started. It is very important to work closely with your vet during this process to avoid further complications. Even after your pet is regulated, you will still need to maintain this relationship with your pet's health care provider. Frequent check ups will be necessary to maintain good health.

My pet is ill, and not eating. Should I still give him/her an insulin injection?
Yes, you should not withhold insulin unless your pet is hypoglycemic. Dogs which are off their food or need to be fasted as part of the management of vomiting or diarrhea need to continue to receive insulin, since withholding both food and insulin is likely to start the production of ketones and this will make the dog more unwell. Usually half of the dog's normal requirement will prevent ketoacidosis and will be safe. As always though, consult with your veterinarian.

How can I monitor my pet's Blood Glucose level at home?
During the first phase of regulation, you can use urine strips such as Diastix, to monitor your pets glucose level. They can be purchased in most pharmacy's, and are fairly inexpensive. Your pharmacist can normally help you find the right product if you are unsure. Once your pet is regulated, and the strips start reading negative, they are no longer an accurate judge of your pet's condition. They will only tell you if your pet's glucose level is too high, but they will not give you an indication of it being too low. This will require a blood glucose meter. These meters are very accurate, and will give you a digital reading of your pet's current state. They however, require you to take a blood sample from your pet.

How do I choose a Blood Glucose Meter?
Two words... very carefully! The good ones are not cheap, but if you don't spend the money on them, you will more than likely regret it. If you buy one, and it doesn't work, you can't return it, so it's important to get it right the first time.

Things to consider:

Out of experience, and buying the wrong one the first time, I chose the Glucometer Elite by Bayer. It requires one of the smallest sample sizes, and believe me, that is very important. It is also one of the few meters that actually draws the sample into the strip. Most require you to strategically "drip" the blood onto a target, and the blood cannot go out of the boundaries of the target, or it could give you a false reading. Try doing that with a dog that doesn't want to cooperate!

How do I get a blood sample?
First thing, know that sometimes it is virtually impossible to get a sample. You stick them in an ear vein. The more practice you get, the better you will be at determining this. If after the first couple sticks, you don't get a good sample, just wait a while and try again. Let your pet sit outside in the sun for a few minutes, or take them for a walk. This usually warms them up and gets the circulation going.

What is the life span of insulin?
If kept refrigerated, it will have a longer life span. There are different theories on this, but when it comes to your pets health, why take a chance. Each time you puncture the insulin vial, you risk contaminating it with bacteria.


For more information, contact the manufacturer of your particular brand of insulin.

What else should I know about insulin?

Are there alternatives to injections?

There are oral medications that are helpful in humans and felines, but right now, injections are the only treatment for Canine Diabetes Mellitus.

Should I reuse insulin syringes?
Many doctors, vets, and pharmacists will tell you it is ok to reuse syringes. This is a personal decision. If you do reuse syringes, you risk giving your pet an abscess, or infection, that complicated by diabetes can be a chore to get over. I recommend using syringes once, and disposing of them.

How do I dispose of insulin syringes?
The guidelines for each community is different. You will need to check with your own. Most find it acceptable to dispose of the syringes in a "sharps container" (available at your drug store), milk jug or coffee can that has been properly labeled and thrown in the trash. Sometimes your vet will also dispose of them for you.

Should I feed my pet before or after an injection?
It is very important that your pet eats along with it's injection. This helps prevent Hypoglycemia. The safest method is to feed your pet first, then give the injection (about 20 minutes later). This way, if your pet does not eat, you will have the chance to reduce the dosage if needed.

What can I give my pet as a treat?
Your vet will be the best person to determine your pet's diet, as he/she best knows it's needs. Ask them about treats. They can probably help you find a restricted calorie treat for your pet, such as Eukanuba Restricted Calorie Rewards or Science Diet Light Formula Treats. You may also be able to give an occasional natural treat such as Rawhide or Pig Ears.

What does the typical diet consist of?
To keep diet constant from day to day it is best to use commercially produced rather than home made diets. Certain prescription or veterinary diets can be a useful adjunct to insulin therapy such as Waltham Canine High Fiber, Hill's w/d or r/d. These diets should be avoided in underweight diabetics which need Waltham Concentration Diet, Hill's p/d or i/d. If special diets are unavailable then standard canned pet foods are acceptable. If your pet has been fed "people food" only and will not eat dog foods, check out Queenie's Canine Cuisine for ideas.

What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia?
In diabetic animals treated with insulin there is some risk that hypoglycemia may occur. It is rare for a dog or cat to die of this condition but it is possible and owners should be appropriately warned and trained by the veterinary team responsible for their pet's management. It is most likely to happen if the animal is accidentally over-dosed with insulin, over-exercised or fails to eat its morning meal. The first noticeable clinical sign is hunger followed by lethargy and sleepiness. If untreated, stumbling and staggering ensue followed progressively by twitching, convulsions, coma and death.

I think my pet is having a hypoglycemic episode, what should I do?
If the animal is still conscious, treatment is by offering food. If it is unable to eat, then glucose must be administered by mouth or by intravenous injection. Dissolved glucose powder or syrup (such as Karo white corn syrup) will be absorbed quickly through the mucosa if poured into the side of the mouth. It is not necessary for it to be swallowed. HYPOSTOP or GLUTOSE 45 are a 40% dextrose gels which are convenient to carry and easily administered orally. There are also 20 and 40% dextrose (a form of glucose) solutions available for the veterinarian to use in emergency treatment.