Top Ten Risk Factors for Diabetes in Dogs

Uncover the top ten risk factors for diabetes in dogs with our comprehensive guide. Learn how age, obesity, breed, and other crucial elements contribute to canine diabetes. Gain expert insights to safeguard your furry friend’s health and well-being. As many as 1 in every 300 dogs will eventually be diagnosed with diabetes.

Most pet parents realize that dogs, like humans, can get diabetes but may not realize just how common it is, or why so many of or our four-legged family members are being diagnosed with this disease. In honor of National Diabetes Month, learn what factors can put your dog at risk and what you can do to help protect your dog’s best health.

What is diabetes in dogs?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that causes high blood sugar. There are two types: type 1 and type 2. Diabetes is a chronic disease that can affect dogs and cats and other animals (including apes, pigs, and horses) as well as humans. Although diabetes can’t be cured, it can be managed very successfully. Diabetes mellitus, or “sugar diabetes,” is the type of diabetes seen most often in dogs. It is a metabolism disorder. Metabolism refers to how the body converts food to energy.

Type 1 diabetes is known in humans as “childhood diabetes” because it’s caused by an autoimmune deficiency that prevents the pancreas from making insulin, a hormone that enables cells in the body to utilize glucose (sugar) as energy.

Type 2 diabetes differs from Type 1 in that the pancreas can still produce some insulin. It’s commonly associated with obesity and high sugar consumption. The pancreas will produce more insulin to help break down excess sugar, but over time, the cells will become less responsive to the hormone, a phenomenon known as insulin resistance. Dogs with diabetes almost always have type 1. Type 2 is possible, but rare, in dogs.

Top Ten Risk Factors for Diabetes in Dogs

Welcoming a dog into your home brings immeasurable joy, but responsible pet ownership involves understanding and addressing potential health risks. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the Top Ten Risk Factors for Diabetes in Dogs, shedding light on the often-overlooked threats to your canine companion’s health.

Explore the top ten risk factors for diabetes in dogs, understanding the hidden threats that could impact your furry friend's health.

1. Age

Diabetes is more common in older dogs, usually affecting those over 5 years old. However, younger dogs are not immune, and early diagnosis is crucial. As dogs age, their susceptibility to diabetes increases, with a higher prevalence seen in those over the age of 5. While older dogs are more commonly affected, it’s essential to recognize that diabetes can also strike younger dogs. Early detection and monitoring become paramount, enabling proactive management to ensure the well-being of your furry companion.

2. Obesity

Excessive weight gain puts dogs at a significant risk of developing diabetes, especially breeds prone to obesity. Maintaining a healthy weight is key to prevention. Obesity emerges as a significant risk factor, particularly for breeds prone to weight-related issues. Excess weight strains the body, making it challenging to regulate insulin levels effectively. Prioritizing a balanced diet and regular exercise is crucial in maintaining a healthy weight, mitigating the risk of diabetes,, and fostering overall well-being.

3. Breed

Certain breeds have a higher genetic predisposition to diabetes. These include Toy Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, Yorkshire Terriers, Miniature Poodles, Bichon Frises, Dachshunds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Keeshonds. Understanding breed-specific risks is essential in diabetes prevention. Breeds such as toy poodles, miniature schnauzers, and others listed have a heightened genetic predisposition. Awareness of these tendencies allows for proactive measures, emphasizing regular check-ups and lifestyle adjustments tailored to the breed’s needs.

Also, read: Top 10 Dog Breeds In The World

4. Sex

Unspayed female dogs have a higher risk of diabetes than neutered males. Spaying before the first heat cycle further reduces the risk. Gender plays a role in diabetes risk, with unspayed female dogs having a higher likelihood. Early spaying, particularly before the first heat cycle, significantly diminishes this risk. Responsible pet owners should consider these factors when planning veterinary procedures for their dogs.

5. Inactivity

Lack of exercise contributes to insulin resistance, making dogs more susceptible to diabetes. Regular physical activity helps regulate blood sugar and overall health. Inactivity poses a threat to canine health, contributing to insulin resistance and elevating the risk of diabetes. Incorporating regular physical activity into a dog’s routine is a proactive measure, promoting optimal blood sugar regulation and maintaining overall health.

6. Pancreatitis

This inflammation of the pancreas can damage insulin-producing cells, leading to diabetes. Monitoring for pancreatitis in at-risk dogs is important. Pancreatitis emerges as a potential precursor to diabetes, as inflammation can harm insulin-producing cells. Vigilant monitoring for pancreatitis becomes crucial, particularly in dogs with identified risk factors, allowing for early intervention and prevention.

7. Steroid medications

Long-term use of steroid medications like prednisone can elevate blood sugar and increase diabetes risk. Discuss alternative medications with your veterinarian, if possible. The prolonged use of steroid medications presents a challenge, as it may elevate blood sugar levels and heighten the risk of diabetes. Engaging in discussions with a veterinarian about potential alternative medications becomes essential, balancing health needs while mitigating diabetes risks.

8. Cushing’s disease

Cushing’s disease, a hormonal mischief-maker fueled by excess cortisol, throws a curveball at canine health. It not only cleverly mimics diabetes symptoms, but can also secretly stoke its flames. This treacherous double act underscores the importance of swift diagnosis and treatment for Cushing’s.

Early detection is crucial, transforming diagnosis from a detective novel into a straightforward story. By promptly addressing Cushing’s, we break its sinister cycle of deception and protect pups from the double whammy of its symptoms and diabetes risk. This intertwined dance of hormones emphasizes the vital role of comprehensive veterinary care. Just like a skilled conductor keeps an orchestra in harmony, your veterinarian can navigate the complex symphony of your dog’s health, ensuring each hormone plays its part beautifully.

9. Other health conditions

Certain conditions like chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, and acromegaly can put dogs at increased risk of diabetes. Regular veterinary checkups help identify these issues early. Beyond the immediate factors, various health conditions pose an increased risk of diabetes. Chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, and acromegaly are among these contributing factors. Regular veterinary check-ups play a vital role in early detection, enabling proactive management and reducing the overall risk.

10. Family history

Dogs with close relatives who have diabetes are more likely to develop it themselves. Consider this factor when choosing a breeder and be watchful for early signs. A family history of diabetes in dogs serves as a significant predictor of susceptibility. When selecting a breeder, understanding the lineage and potential genetic predispositions becomes crucial. Additionally, vigilant observation for early signs in your dog, particularly if there is a familial history, allows for timely intervention and proactive care.


Q: Can diabetes in dogs be completely prevented?

While complete prevention may not be guaranteed, understanding and mitigating risk factors significantly reduce the likelihood of diabetes in dogs.

Q: How often should I have my dog checked for diabetes?

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential, especially for senior dogs or breeds with a predisposition to diabetes. Discuss a suitable screening schedule with your veterinarian.

Q: Are there specific breeds more prone to diabetes?

Yes, certain breeds, including schnauzers, dachshunds, and Australian terriers, are more prone to diabetes. Knowing your dog’s breed can aid in proactive health management.

Q: Can dietary changes reverse diabetes in dogs?

In some cases, dietary adjustments, under veterinary guidance, can contribute to managing diabetes. However, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian for personalized advice.

Q: How does stress impact a dog’s risk of diabetes?

Chronic stress can weaken a dog’s immune system and contribute to various health issues, including diabetes. Creating a calm and supportive environment is essential for overall well-being.

Q: Is diabetes in dogs treatable, and can they lead a normal life?

With proper management, including medication, diet, and lifestyle adjustments, dogs with diabetes can lead fulfilling lives. Regular veterinary care is key to successful treatment.


Safeguarding your dog from the risk of diabetes involves a proactive approach, encompassing factors like genetics, lifestyle, and environmental considerations. By staying informed and taking preventive measures, you empower yourself to provide the best possible care for your furry friend.

Also read: Top Ten Signs of Diabetes in Dogs

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