Canine diabetes can be tricky — and serious — business. In order to treat it, you have to know what kind your dog has, and even then treatment won’t be the same for all dogs across the board. Read on to find out exactly what canine diabetes is, what causes it, its symptoms, and what to do if your pup has it.

What Is Dog Diabetes?

Canine diabetes is very similar to human diabetes. Just like humans with diabetes, dogs with diabetes are unable to regulate their blood sugar levels because of how their bodies react to insulin. The production of insulin by the pancreas is how a the body is able to absorb glucose, a cellular energy source.

There are two types of diabetes, and what kind of treatment a dog with diabetes should get depends on the type they have:

• Type I diabetes occurs when a dog’s pancreas has completely stopped producing insulin, and can be treated by regular insulin injections and the proper diet. Because diabetes can’t be cured, a dog with diabetes will have to receive insulin shots for the rest of their lives.

• Dogs with Type II diabetes, meanwhile, produce normal to high levels of insulin, but their bodies are unable to use the insulin. The effects of Type II diabetes can often be helped with weight loss and a new diet and exercise routine.

What Causes Dog Diabetes

Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, can incur Type I diabetes by destroying the cells that produce insulin. Breeds such as miniature Poodles, Samoyeds, Beagles, and Pugs are more susceptible to developing pancreatitis and, in turn, diabetes. An impaired immune system can also damage the pancreas and affect its ability to make insulin.

Obese dogs, unspayed female dogs, dogs with hyperadrenocorticism (also called Cushing’s disease), and dogs taking steroid medications are at risk for developing Type II diabetes.

Symptoms of Dog Diabetes

The large amounts of glucose in a pup’s bloodstream caused by diabetes will lead to excessive urination, which will then in turn lead to excessive water drinking to replenish the lost fluids. If you notice your dog peeing and drinking water much more frequently than normal, diabetes could be the culprit.

Dogs with diabetes may also eat more than usual, but still be unable to maintain their weight.

Later signs of diabetes are more severe and can include anorexia, cataracts, depression, lethargy, recurring infections, vomiting, and more severe weight loss.

Preventing Dog Diabetes

Can you prevent dog diabetes? Not always. In fact, because of how it’s caused, prevention of Type I diabetes isn’t an option. You can, however, catch it early, which can help make treating it more easily.

Type II diabetes, on the other hand, can be prevented in some cases. Here are a few things you can do to keep your dog from developing Type II diabetes:

Regular visits to the vet: Take your pup to the vet for regular checkups and blood work so they can be monitored for signs of Cushing’s disease and pancreatitis.

Good exercise routine: The right amount of exercise helps regulate glucose levels and keep your pup from gaining too much weight. Walk and play with your pooch daily — just be sure to factor in their age and health so you don’t run them into the ground.

Healthy diet: Your dog should be eating food with a high level of protein, rather than high levels of carbs, which can destabilize their blood sugar levels. It’s also important not to feed your dog too much, since, again, obesity can cause diabetes in dogs. If you’re unsure about buying food off the shelf at the store, you can try a personalized nutrition plan like the ones Puppo offers. Armed with some information about your pooch, Puppo will create a kibble suited exactly to your dog’s needs.

Spaying. If your dog is female and “intact” (meaning not spayed) have her spayed. The manner in which female dogs’ hormones fluctuate before, during, and after they’re in heat can make them more prone to Type II diabetes.

Treating Dog Diabetes

Canine diabetes, particularly Type I, can be fatal, so treatment is paramount. If you suspect your pup has diabetes, take them to the vet as soon as you can for bloodwork and urine analysis. These tests will be able to detect elevated levels of glucose in a dog’s blood and urine.

If your dog is diagnosed with Type I diabetes, the vet will most likely prescribe a new diet and insulin shots. Because not all dogs react alike to the same levels of insulin, you’ll have to take your pup back to the vet frequently so their blood can be tested, to see how they’re handling the effects of the injections.

As for diet, you’ll want to give your pup food high in fiber and low in fat, and feeding times will need to be consistent every day. Before you introduce a new food or treats into your dog’s diet, run it by the vet.

The insulin injections and feedings will need to be coordinated, and your vet can show you how to administer the shots. It wouldn’t hurt to keep a detailed record of your dog’s feedings and injections to help you keep from accidentally missing or doubling up on them, or giving them at the wrong time. Too much or too little insulin can have severe, rapid effects on a dog, so talk to your vet about an emergency plan.

If your pup is diagnosed with Type II diabetes, treatment will be similar to prevention methods. Intact female dogs should be spayed, and diets and exercise routines should be adjusted accordingly.

Because diabetes is a chronic disease, it can be managed in the long-term. Just keep in mind that treatment could change over time, which is why it’s important to see the vet regularly.

Fortunately, finding out your dog has diabetes shouldn’t discourage you. As long as you’re willing and able to commit to their treatment schedule, your dog can have a great, long life.