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Signs a Dog with Diabetes Is Dying: A Comprehensive Guide

Diabetes in dogs is a serious condition that requires ongoing medical care and vigilant monitoring. While some dogs may live for several years with proper treatment, others might succumb to the disease within a few months. Understanding the signs of advanced diabetes and knowing when to consider euthanasia is crucial for any pet owner. In this blog, we will explore the signs that a dog with diabetes is dying, provide answers to common questions, and offer real-world perspectives from veterinary professionals.

Early Signs of Dog with Diabetes Is Dying

Q: What are the early signs of diabetes in dogs?

A: Early signs of diabetes in dogs include:

  • Increased thirst and urination

  • Weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite

These symptoms arise because the dog's body cannot use glucose properly due to insufficient insulin production. Without insulin, glucose remains in the bloodstream instead of being used by the cells for energy.

Real-World Situation

Consider a dog named Max, a seven-year-old Labrador Retriever. Max’s owner noticed that he was drinking water excessively and urinating more frequently than usual. Despite eating well, Max began to lose weight. Recognizing these symptoms, Max’s owner took him to the vet, where he was diagnosed with diabetes.

Advanced Signs of Diabetes

Q: What are the signs of advancing diabetes?

A: As diabetes progresses, the symptoms become more severe and include:

  • Dramatic increase in thirst and urination

  • Dehydration

  • Lethargy and weakness

  • Severe weight loss

  • Repeated infections, especially bladder infections

  • Urine that is sticky and smells sweet

  • Cataracts

  • Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage)

Real-World Situation

Bella, a ten-year-old Poodle, had been living with diabetes for two years. Despite regular insulin injections, Bella started showing signs of lethargy and weakness. Her owner also noticed that Bella’s urine was sticky and had a sweet smell. These signs indicated that Bella’s diabetes was advancing, and her treatment plan needed to be reassessed.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

Q: What is diabetic ketoacidosis, and how does it relate to diabetes?

A: Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a severe and potentially fatal complication of diabetes. It occurs when the body cannot use glucose for energy and starts breaking down fat instead, producing ketone bodies. High levels of ketone bodies make the blood acidic, leading to electrolyte imbalances, muscle damage, heart failure, fluid buildup in the lungs, and kidney damage.

Q: What are the signs of diabetic ketoacidosis?

A: Signs of DKA include:

  • Severe lethargy and weakness

  • Mental dullness

  • Rapid breathing

  • Breath that smells like acetone

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Seizures

  • Death

Real-World Situation

Charlie, a five-year-old Beagle, was diagnosed with diabetes but had not been receiving consistent treatment. One day, Charlie’s owner noticed he was very weak, breathing rapidly, and his breath smelled like nail polish remover. Rushing to the vet, Charlie was diagnosed with DKA and required several days of intensive care to stabilize his condition.

Treated Diabetes with Complications

Q: Can dogs with treated diabetes still develop complications?

A: Yes, dogs being treated for diabetes can develop complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis, often due to other health problems that increase their insulin needs. Conversely, too much insulin can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).

Q: What are the signs of hypoglycemia in dogs?

A: Signs of hypoglycemia include:

  • Sleepiness

  • Hunger

  • Shivering

  • Unsteadiness

  • Disorientation

  • Seizures

  • Coma

  • Death

Real-World Situation

Lucy, an eight-year-old Golden Retriever, was on insulin for her diabetes. One day, after a particularly active day, Lucy began to shiver and seemed disoriented. Recognizing the signs of hypoglycemia, Lucy’s owner rubbed honey on her gums and rushed her to the vet. The quick action saved Lucy’s life.

Quality of Life Considerations

Q: How can I assess my diabetic dog’s quality of life?

A: Using a pet quality of life scale can help you assess six important factors:

  1. Eating

  2. Drinking

  3. Peeing

  4. Pooping

  5. Joy (mental health)

  6. The well-being of human family members

Real-World Situation

Max’s condition continued to deteriorate despite the best efforts to manage his diabetes. His owner used a quality of life scale and found that Max was no longer enjoying his meals, had become incontinent, and was generally unhappy. After discussing with the vet, Max’s owner made the tough decision to consider euthanasia to prevent further suffering.

When to Consider Euthanasia

Q: When should I consider euthanizing my diabetic dog?

A: If your dog’s quality of life is poor and there is no reasonable expectation of improvement, euthanasia may be the humane choice to prevent further suffering. Signs that it may be time to consider euthanasia include:

  • Severe weight loss and muscle wasting

  • Inability to stand or walk

  • Loss of interest in food and water

  • Chronic pain that cannot be managed

  • Repeated infections that do not respond to treatment

Real-World Situation

Bella’s condition continued to decline despite various treatments. She lost interest in food, became very weak, and had frequent infections. Her owner, after much deliberation and consultation with the vet, decided that euthanasia was the most compassionate option to relieve Bella’s suffering.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What are the early signs of diabetes in dogs?

Early signs include increased thirst and urination, and weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite.

2. What are the symptoms of advancing diabetes in dogs?

Symptoms include dramatic increase in thirst and urination, dehydration, lethargy, severe weight loss, repeated infections, sweet-smelling urine, cataracts, and diabetic neuropathy.

3. What is diabetic ketoacidosis, and what are its signs?

DKA is a severe complication of diabetes where the body produces high levels of ketone bodies, making the blood acidic. Signs include severe lethargy, rapid breathing, acetone-smelling breath, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and death.

4. Can dogs with treated diabetes develop complications?

Yes, they can develop complications like DKA and hypoglycemia, often due to fluctuating insulin needs or other health problems.

5. What are the signs of hypoglycemia in dogs?

Signs include sleepiness, hunger, shivering, unsteadiness, disorientation, seizures, coma, and death.

6. How can I assess my diabetic dog’s quality of life?

Use a quality of life scale to assess eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, joy, and the well-being of human family members.

7. When should I consider euthanizing my diabetic dog?

Consider euthanasia if your dog has severe weight loss, cannot stand or walk, loses interest in food and water, has chronic pain, or suffers from repeated infections.

8. What can I do if my diabetic dog shows signs of hypoglycemia?

Do NOT give more insulin. Rub corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup on their gums and get them to the nearest veterinarian immediately.

9. Can dogs recover from diabetic ketoacidosis?

Yes, with aggressive veterinary treatment including intravenous fluids, insulin injections, medications to correct electrolyte imbalances, and symptomatic care, dogs can recover from DKA.

10. How long can a dog live with diabetes?

With proper treatment, many dogs can live for a year or two after diagnosis, and some may live even longer, especially with dedicated care from their pet parents.


Managing diabetes in dogs is a challenging but crucial responsibility for pet owners. Understanding the signs of advanced diabetes and knowing when to consider euthanasia can help ensure that your pet’s quality of life is maintained for as long as possible. Always consult with your veterinarian to make informed decisions about your dog’s health and well-being. With the right care and attention, many dogs with diabetes can continue to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Dog with Diabetes Is Dying
Dog with Diabetes Is Dying


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