2 Types of Diabetes In Dogs

Written by Katelynn Sobus
Updated: May 20, 2023
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The two types of diabetes in dogs are diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. Diabetes mellitus is the most common type and is caused by a lack of insulin or poor cell response to insulin. Diabetes insipidus is rarer and is caused by a lack of ADH (antidiuretic hormone) or kidney resistance to ADH.

Symptoms of diabetes are similar no matter the type, but the causes and treatments are different. Dogs with diabetes cannot be cured, but they can live normal lives with treatment.

In this article, we’ll discuss the two types of diabetes in dogs, their symptoms, and how they’re treated.

medicine, pet care and people concept - close up of french bulldog dog and veterinarian doctor hand at vet clinic - Image

Diabetes in dogs causes symptoms like excessive thirst and urination.

©Hryshchyshen Serhii/Shutterstock.com

What is Diabetes in Dogs?

There are two types of diabetes in dogs: diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. Diabetes mellitus is the most common and occurs when the pancreas doesn’t create enough insulin.

Diabetes insipidus is less common and happens when a dog’s brain doesn’t produce enough ADH (antidiuretic hormone), which helps regulate hydration and urination. 

Though they have different causes, the symptoms of diabetes are similar in both types. Treatments vary depending on the type of diabetes your dog has.

Diabetes is an incurable but manageable disease. Dogs with diabetes will need medication for the rest of their lives.

Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

Symptoms of diabetes in dogs are similar for both types. To start, you’ll notice the following in your dog:

  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Potty accidents
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite

If the disease progresses, you might see advanced signs of illness, such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Depression

It’s vital to treat diabetes in dogs promptly. Without treatment, dogs will develop more serious symptoms, including:

  • Cataracts
  • Liver enlargement
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Seizures
  • Kidney failure
  • Ketoacidosis – rapid breathing, dehydration, lethargy, vomiting, and sweet-smelling breath are all symptoms of ketoacidosis

These symptoms can also all present in dogs undergoing treatment. The severity of your dog’s diabetes depends on several factors, including their blood phosphate levels, age, weight, health, genetics, and whether they receive prompt treatment.

Veterinarians recommend that you keep ketone-testing sticks on-hand if you have a diabetic dog so that you can test their urine if they show the symptoms of ketoacidosis outlined above. A positive test indicates an emergency situation. Bring your dog to an emergency vet clinic immediately.

Never restrict the water intake of a dog with diabetes, as this can lead to organ damage. 

Bernese mountain dog being examined by veterinarian

Canine diabetes can be diagnosed using urine and blood testing.


How is Diabetes Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform a basic exam and take your dog’s history, including symptoms they’re showing at home and any previous health problems.

They’ll then use blood and urine tests for a diagnosis. Your veterinarian may also want to rule out other problems or address the root cause of diabetes if another health problem causes it.

Treatments will vary depending on which type of diabetes your dog has and whether or not they have other coinciding health conditions.

Dog getting vaccination

Diabetes mellitus is when a dog’s body struggles to produce or process insulin, while diabetes insipidus occurs when a dog’s body fails to produce or process a hormone called ADH.


The Two Types of Dog Diabetes

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is the most common form of diabetes in dogs. It occurs when a dog’s insulin levels either decrease, or their cells don’t respond as they should to the insulin. This leads to increased glucose levels. As a result, a dog’s cells don’t get the energy they need. 

Causes of diabetes mellitus include Cushing’s disease, pancreatitis, adverse reactions to steroids, and obesity.

Alongside the typical symptoms, a dog with diabetes mellitus may develop secondary ailments such as cataracts or urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Treatment includes lifelong insulin injections, dietary changes, and a moderate daily exercise routine to help regulate their glucose levels.

Diabetes Insipidus

Diabetes insipidus is rare in dogs. Dogs with diabetes insipidus urinate excessively, sometimes to the point of incontinence. They become dehydrated from over-urinating.

These problems sometimes occur due to the brain not producing enough ADH (antidiuretic hormone), which helps regulate hydration in a dog’s body. This is called central diabetes insipidus (CDI).

Other times, the dog’s kidneys resist ADH., a condition known as nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI).

Diabetes insipidus in dogs can be caused by birth defects, trauma, adverse reactions to medications, infections, kidney disease, or metabolic disorders.

Treatment includes dietary changes and medication. Dogs with CDI receive synthetic ADH, also known as desmopressin, in the form of eye drops or injections. 

Dogs with NDI have a treatment of an oral medication called hydrochlorothiazide. Your veterinarian may also recommend other treatment options, especially to treat the cause of your dog’s diabetes, such as kidney disease or an infection.

I hope this article has helped you to learn more about the two types of diabetes in dogs: diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. Remember that diabetes mellitus involves insulin, while diabetes insipidus involves ADH.

If you think your dog might have diabetes, contact your veterinarian to schedule an appointment. Diabetes is treatable, and many dogs go on to live full lives with treatment.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Hryshchyshen Serhii/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Katelynn Sobus is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on pets including dogs, cats, and exotics. She has been writing about pet care for over five years. Katelynn currently lives in Michigan with her seven senior rescue cats.

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