The Three Most Common Illnesses in Diabetic Dogs

Posted by Michelle for PetTest, AAHA Certified Diabetes Educator on May 22nd 2024

The Three Most Common Illnesses in Diabetic Dogs

The Three Most Common Illnesses in Diabetic Dogs

I am lucky that my diabetic dog Lucy did so well once she healed from acute pancreatitis, she never had another bout but I made sure she was eating properly so that she would not get it again. The first year after her diabetes diagnosis I learned a lot about complications and illnesses that are common in diabetic dogs and what I needed to look for. We have had an influx of new members in our Facebook group so I felt it important to write a blog about the three most common illnesses in diabetic dogs.

Urinary tract infections (UTI), diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and pancreatitis are common illnesses in diabetic dogs and today we will look at symptoms, why they are common and the treatment for these illnesses.

Grab a cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage and let’s jump right in.

Urinary tract infections (UTI) are common in diabetic dogs because blood glucose levels are high. The kidneys filter excess glucose out of blood and then dump the excess into the bladder. Urine sits in the bladder until it is expelled. Glucose in the bladder promotes the growth of bad bacteria and causes UTI’s.

The symptoms of a UTI are:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Blood in urine
  • Urine leaking
  • Crying when urinating
  • Continually licking genitals
  • Frequent urination, but only small amounts

If you suspect that your dog has a urinary tract infection a vet visit is in order. They will get a urine sample for urinalysis and if bacteria is present they may send a urine culture out to find out what type of bacteria is causing the infection.

Treatment for UTI is antibiotics and if a urine culture is run, your vet may change the antibiotic to a more appropriate medication. For severe pain, pain medication can be given. Once the antibiotic course is completed a recheck should be completed to ensure the infection is gone.

Preventative measures can be taken to ward off urinary tract infections and these include:

  • D-Mannose supplements – this should be given at night after last potty break, D-Mannose sits in the bladder and adheres to bacteria present.
  • Reducing blood glucose levels – since excess glucose causes UTI’s, getting blood glucose levels down can help alleviate urinary tract infections. This can take some time, especially if your dog is recently diagnosed. Testing blood glucose levels at home, running curves and sharing that information with your vet for insulin adjustments should be performed to reduce blood glucose levels.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious complication of uncontrolled blood glucose levels and requires immediate vet intervention. Insulin opens cells to accept glucose for energy (food for the body), when there is not enough insulin in the body, the liver converts stored fats into ketone bodies. This is used as a source of food for the body but build-up of ketones is toxic and poisons the body.

Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) are:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss / muscle wasting
  • Dehydration
  • Unkempt coat
  • Bloating / swollen appearance
  • Mental confusion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fruity scented breath / smells like acetone

Treatment for DKA:

  • Insulin therapy – a regular type insulin is given to bring down blood glucose levels quickly.
  • Fluid replacement therapy – fluids are given for dehydration and electrolyte replacement. Low potassium (hypokalemia) is common with diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Antibiotics – given if an infection is present.

Preventative measures:

Ketone urinalysis test strips – testing urine for ketones is an important step with a diabetic dog and should be done whenever blood glucose levels are over 300 mg/dL (16.6 mmol/L). If urine is positive for ketones and they are trace they can be flushed out by encouraging water consumption. Anything over trace requires vet intervention.

Pancreatitis – is inflammation of the pancreas and up to 40% of diabetic dogs get or have pancreatitis. Pancreatitis happens when the digestive enzymes amylase, lipase and protease are activated in the pancreas, causing destruction to the pancreatic tissues.

Symptoms of pancreatitis include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hunched (praying position)
  • Abdominal pain (tender to the touch)
  • Shaking / trembling
  • Dehydration
  • Restless / agitation
  • Unable to stand (acute pancreatitis)
  • Shock (acute pancreatitis)

Diagnostics for pancreatitis:

  • SNAP cPL – this is an in-house test that gives results quickly. Should not be used solely for diagnoses of pancreatitis.
  • Blood panel including CBC.
  • cPLI test
  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray

Treatment for pancreatitis includes:

  • Low-fat diet (under 10% on a dry matter basis)
  • Pain medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-nausea medication
  • Acid reducers
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Fluids – either subcutaneous (SC) or intravenous (IV)
  • Smaller meals given multiple times per day (three to four times per day vs. two times per day)

Preventing pancreatitis includes feeding a low-fat diet. For a dog that has pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis, diet should be under 10% fat on a dry matter basis. Since the statistics of diabetic dogs getting pancreatitis is high, feeding a low-fat diet is best even if your adult diabetic dog has never had pancreatitis. Digestive enzymes may help take the load of the pancreas as well.

That was a lot of information but I hope that it helps you! Knowing these common illnesses and symptoms will really help you and your diabetic dog.

For further information here are links to past blogs:

Pee: All About It!

USA link:

Canada link:

Treating Pancreatitis and Preventing Flare-ups:

USA link:

Canada link:

There are products that PetTest offers to help keep urinary tract infections and diabetic ketoacidosis at bay. I will provide links below for the USA and Canada.

USA links:

D-Mannose with Cranberry Supplement -

Urinary Tract Infection Test Strips -

Ketone Glucose Urinalysis Test Strips -

Canada links:

D-Mannose with Cranberry Supplement -

Urinary Tract Infection Test Strips -

Ketone Glucose Urinalysis Test Strips -

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please start a conversation below.

For a printable version of this blog click here.

Until next week stay comfy, don’t stress and you got this!

Michelle Miller-Matlock

AAHA Certified Diabetes Educator

Founder/Administrator of DDO: Diabetic Dog Owners University

Administrator of Diabetic Dog Owners on Facebook

Want to learn all you can in a simple and easy to follow format? Please join DDO-U: Diabetic Dog Owners University , graciously sponsored by PetTest.

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PetTest USA link:

Link to PetTest Canada:

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