There are two types of diabetes mellitus (or "sugar" diabetes). Type 1 diabetes is when the body does not produce enough insulin, and is the type of diabetes seen in dogs. Type 2 diabetes is when the body no longer responds properly to insulin, so more is needed to get the same response (this is type of diabetes seen in cats). Dogs aren't currently known to get type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is sometimes seen in dogs as well.
There is also an unrelated but serious condition known as diabetes insipidus, characterized by extreme thirst and frequent large volumes of urination. Dogs begin having frequent and repeated "housebreaking accidents". A dog with this condition cannot properly conserve water or concentrate its urine, leading to serious problems. Large quantities of water must be available to the dog at all times. If you suspect your dog has this condition, bring him to the vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Dogs that display one or more of these signs should be taken to the vet for consultation. These symptoms may not necessarily indicate diabetes; some of them can also indicate the possibility of diseases like Canine Cushings or liver disease in dogs. However, if your dog does have diabetes, early treatment may be able to prevent further complications from the disease.
Dogs that are at increased risk for this condition are older dogs, dogs who have pancreatic problems, dogs with a genetic predisposition to the disease, and dogs who are obese. Female dogs are more likely than males to develop diabetes.
Your veterinarian will do a physical exam, go over your dog's history, and run blood and urine tests to check sugar levels. He may also recommend running a broader blood test which can also help him to make a diagnosis. The results of the blood and urine tests will allow your vet to determine whether or not your dog has diabetes.
Diabetes is a treatable condition. Dogs with diabetes are treated with a combination of diet, exercise, and insulin, which is given by injection typically twice a day. Injections are often given after a meal because the extra insulin in the body can be dangerous if the dog doesn't eat.
Your vet will instruct you on the proper administration of insulin shots. Ask if you can give your dog the shots while the vet observes. This way you can be sure you're doing it correctly.
Regular monitoring will also be necessary in order to ensure that your dog's diabetes is being appropriately treated. The initial monitoring is more frequent; once your dog is stable, monitoring doesn't have to happen so often. Pet owners are naturally concerned with the costs of diabetes treatment in dogs. The initial assessments, consultations and monitoring can certainly add up, but once the disease is well-controlled, management is not overly expensive. Here are some things that can help owners deal with (or plan for) vet bills.
Also ask your vet for information on how to recognize high or low blood sugar levels, and what to do if the situation arises.
Dogs with diabetes can lead happy, long lives similar to dogs without diabetes. Pet owners can understandably feel overwhelmed at first; but once settled into a routine, caring for a diabetic dog becomes much easier. However, it's important to understand that lifelong treatment for canine diabetes is usually required. By treating the dog appropriately, the risk for complications due to high blood sugar can be minimized.