Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs Part 3: How is it treated and managed long-term?

Posted by MyDogDoc on

Diabetes Mellitus (sugar diabetes) treatment takes commitment, and needs a good routine, but well controlled dogs can have happy lives.

  • Insulin injections will usually need to be given twice daily, 12 hours apart, under the skin.

  • Feeding at the same time, the same amount and the same food will avoid unnecessary fluctuations in blood sugar levels

  • There is lots of choice of diets - choose one which has good quality protein and is low in carbohydrates. Your vet can help you decide.

  • Avoiding big changes to your dog’s daily exercise will help avoid their blood sugar levels dropping dangerously low.

  • Regular vet checks are important so your vet can monitor your dog’s weight and how well their diabetes is controlled, and make any necessary changes to their treatment.

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes is a hormonal condition which affects a dog’s blood sugar levels. It usually occurs due to the body failing to produce enough insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for controlling the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood.

How is Diabetes treated in dogs?

Diabetes is not curable, but can be managed successfully with proper treatment, diet and exercise. The main aim of treatment is to maintain a dog’s blood sugar levels within the normal range and by doing this, you should also see an improvement in your dog’s symptoms over time.


The mainstay of treatment is insulin injections, which are given twice a day, under the skin. The injections should be given scrupulously at set times 12 hours apart eg. 8am and 8pm.

The prospect of giving injections to your dog at home may be a bit daunting - try not to worry - your vets and vet nurses will offer you lots of training and support. It might reassure you to know that the needle used is very small, and most dogs barely notice the injections at all!

Your vet will calculate your dog’s initial dose of insulin based on their weight. You should start to see an improvement in your dog’s symptoms within a week or two. The most obvious change seen is often a decrease in the amount they are drinking and weeing, but you should also notice improvements in their appetite and demeanour. It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on these signs as they will help your vet when it comes to treatment decisions and whether they need to alter the insulin dose.

Feeding your diabetic dog

Your dog’s diet will play a vital role in helping to manage the diabetes. There are many diets available on the market and some better than others. Your vet will be able to help you decide on an appropriate diet. Here are a few helpful hints when feeding a diabetic dog:

  • It is important to keep meals to the same times each day. As a general rule, you should feed your dog half their daily food requirement just before giving their first morning insulin injection, and the other half 12 hours later just before their second evening insulin injection. This lets you check that your dog is feeling well and eating their food normally before giving the insulin.

  • Always keep feeding the same amount and type of food avoids unnecessary fluctuations in your dog’s blood sugar levels.

  • It is also essential not to feed your dog in between meals, especially with high sugar treats as this can lead to a rapid increase in blood glucose.

  • Choose a diet which has good quality protein but is low in carbohydrates.

  • The type of carbohydrate can also be important. Ideally foods high in complex carbohydrates and fibre are better as they allow glucose to be released slowly over a period of hours and avoid causing large and sudden spikes in the dog’s blood sugar levels.

  • If your dog is overweight, it would be advisable to switch to a calorie controlled diet.

Ask advice from your vet on the best type of diet for your dog. This will vary according to the severity of disease, your dog’s weight and age etc.

Consistent Exercise

Exercise is as important to dogs as it is to us for health and happiness. And if we stick to a routine amount and type of exercise it will certainly benefit our diabetic pals. But here’s the catch; exercise uses up blood sugar. If your dog suddenly exercises more than usual one day, for example going on a very long hike, this will use up a lot more energy and so your dog’s blood sugar levels will drop, sometimes to dangerously low levels. So it’s important to try and keep your dog’s exercise to the same amount each day. If you are planning a period of increased exercise, speak to your vet! They will be able to help by adjusting the treatment to avoid your dog developing low blood sugar levels.

Regular Vet Checks

Once your dog’s diabetes is under control, your vet will want to see them every 3-6 months. This checkup lets your vet keep your dog’s weight under review, give them a physical examination and perform some blood and urine tests. This will help spot if your dog’s diabetes is becoming uncontrolled, if they need an adjustment to their insulin dose or if they are developing any complications.

If you have a diabetic dog and would like any further advice or support, one of the vets at MyDogDoc would be happy to help.

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