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Diabetes mellitus in Dogs

Published on 28 Apr 2021

Labrador showing long tongue sitting in the garden.

Is your pup carrying a few extra kilos? They’re at higher risk of developing diabetes. 

What is diabetes mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or stops responding to insulin appropriately, causing high blood sugar (glucose). 

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Within the cells, glucose is converted to energy for the body to use. 

In the healthy body, high glucose levels stimulate the production of insulin by the pancreas, which helps the glucose move into the cells for use by the body. If there is not enough insulin being produced, or it can’t be utilised properly by the body (insulin resistance). 

The lack of glucose in the cells and the increase in the blood causes the symptoms and complications of diabetes. 

Who is affected?

Across the 2020 calendar year, according to PetSure data, diabetes was most prevalent in the following breeds: 

Australian Terrier2.59%
West Highland White Terrier1.34%
Bichon Frise1.09%
Cairn Terrier0.83%
Miniature Schnauzer 0.69%
Lhasa Apso0.59%
Miniature Poodle0.56%
Toy Poodle0.51%
Siberian Husky0.48%

Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Certain breeds such as the Australian Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, Toy Poodle and Bichon Frise are known to have genetic predispositions to developing diabetes mellitus. But all dogs are at risk, especially overweight dogs, because obesity increases the risk of a dog developing insulin resistance.

Signs of diabetes

Common signs of diabetes include increased urination, thirst and appetite with weight loss particularly in the early stages. Cataracts and blindness can occur. 

Some dogs may develop life threatening diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a serious systemic disease. Pets may appear depressed, vomit and suffer from dehydration. A dog with diabetes may have a characteristic sweet-smelling breath known as ‘acetone’ breath. 

Your vet will test your dog's blood and urine for glucose and other changes consistent with diabetes. 

Management of diabetes mellitus 

Diabetes generally requires lifelong management. The course of treatment depends on the severity of the disease and whether there are any complications. 

Uncomplicated cases generally require insulin injections along with dietary changes. Insulin injections may be required once or twice a day. Your veterinarian can teach you how to administer these to your dog. Regular blood glucose monitoring is required to make sure that the insulin is still effective as the dose may change as time passes. 

In severe cases of diabetes, hospitalisation, intravenous fluids and more frequent check-ups may be required. Diabetic ketoacidosis is an emergency requiring immediate veterinary treatment. 

Management of secondary issues such as cataracts, infections and other complications is also required in dogs with diabetes. If you are concerned that your dog may have diabetes, get in touch with your Vet. 

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data in the 2020 calendar year, the average, single treatment cost relating to Diabetes mellitus was $190 with the highest, single treatment cost being $5,514.   

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.


  1. Nelson, R & Couto, C, 2003 Small animal internal medicine 3rd edition Mosby Inc. 

Terms, conditions, waiting periods, limits and exclusions apply. is issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473, AFSL 241436, is arranged and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923, AFSL 420183 (PetSure) and is promoted and distributed by PetSure’s Authorised Representatives (AR) Pet Insurance Pty Ltd ABN 38 607 160 930, AR 1234944 and Pet Culture Pty Ltd ABN 69 644 613 098, AR 001284860. Any advice provided is general only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure this product meets your needs before purchasing. PDS and Target Market Determination available at .

Kylie Mitchell

Kylie Mitchell


Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie Mitchell's Pets

  • MeekaMeeka
  • Bei BeiBei Bei
  • NoahNoah

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