How to Test for Diabetes in Dogs

Pet parent gives their dog an insulin injection

Diabetic testing in dogs is crucial for early detection and management of diabetes, a hormonal condition that causes high blood sugar in dogs. Regular testing helps monitor blood glucose levels, enabling timely treatment and improved quality of life. Understanding the types of tests and their importance is essential for pet parents and veterinarians alike. 

In this article, you will learn about the different types of diabetic testing for dogs, the cost of testing, and what to expect for testing your dog if they are diagnosed with diabetes.

How Do I Know if My Dog Is Diabetic?

The signs of diabetes in dogs are typically very obvious in dogs. The most common signs are excessive thirst, urination, and weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite. There are several other disorders that can cause similar symptoms, such as Cushing’s or certain cancers. If you suspect that your dog has diabetes or is sick in any way, book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible to confirm.

How to Test for Diabetes in Dogs: What to Expect

A veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination of your dog and check their vital signs and weight. They will also ask you questions about what symptoms you are noticing at home. After they have examined your dog, they will then ask permission to run some tests to determine if your dog’s symptoms are due to diabetes. These tests can usually be run in the hospital the same day, and you can often have results in less than an hour.

Types of Dog Diabetes Tests

The laboratory tests a veterinarian will likely order include blood and urine lab work that checks for any abnormalities in internal organ function or blood cells. This is not only to check for diabetes, but also to check for any other conditions that could cause similar clinical signs. These tests typically include a complete blood count, blood chemistry, and a urinalysis. Included in this testing is checking blood glucose or sugar levels. If the blood sugar levels are high, or your dog has sugar in their urine and the symptoms line up with diabetes, then the veterinarian will have determined that diabetes is the cause of your dog’s symptoms. 

In addition to the general laboratory tests that most veterinarians will run for diabetes, there are also specific tests that are used to diagnose diabetic dogs as well as monitor their treatment. These additional tests can include the following:

Fructosamine testing. Fructosamine testing checks for sugar that is bound to proteins in the blood. This test shows the levels of sugar in the blood over a longer period of time. This test often requires that blood is sent out to a laboratory for testing, but some veterinary clinics can run this test in house. 

Blood glucose curve. A glucose curve shows how blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day. This test requires multiple blood draws during the course of the day. Most pet parents elect to leave their dog at the veterinary clinic for the day while the test is being run. This test is also usually run after a dog has been diagnosed and started on insulin to control blood sugar.

Cost of Diagnosing Diabetes

The cost of diagnosing diabetes in dogs varies depending on your geographic region, but in general, expect to pay $300-$500 for initial diagnostics that include physical examination, office visit, and laboratory testing. 

If your dog has already been diagnosed with diabetes, then follow-up care can include the following recurring costs:

  • Recheck examinations ($35-$50)
  • Fructosamine testing $80-$125)
  • Blood glucose curve ($50-$75)

My Dog Has Diabetes. Now What?

If your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, then they will need help from you and the veterinarian to manage it. If diabetes is uncontrolled and not treated, it can cause cataracts, recurrent urinary tract infections, and can be life-threatening in some cases. It is important to find and work with a veterinarian you trust. At least in the beginning, you will be seeing a lot of your veterinarian.

The most important thing to do with diabetic dogs is to help them get control of their blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and medication. The most common medication used to control diabetes is insulin. Your veterinarian will likely schedule an appointment with you to go over how to care for a diabetic dog. This may include:

  • Feeding your dog a high-quality, low carbohydrate dog food or a therapeutic dog food designed for diabetic dogs 
  • How to develop a feeding and insulin routine
  • How to store and give insulin injections
  • What to do with used syringes and needles
  • How to recognize the signs of high and low blood sugar levels
  • How to test your dog at home

Your veterinarian will also treat any secondary diseases as well, and discuss a follow-up plan. Plan on taking your dog to the veterinarian multiple times, at least in the beginning. Your veterinarian will evaluate how well treatment is going and make adjustments as necessary to insulin therapy. Once your dog’s blood sugar levels are well controlled, then you likely will only need to see your veterinarian twice a year for rechecks and other preventive care.

Receiving a diabetes diagnosis can be emotionally difficult for some pet parents. It is important to remember that with proper care, many diabetic dogs live long and happy lives that are relatively normal. If you suspect your dog is diabetic, scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible will help get them back on the road to wellness. 

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