Why Is My Diabetic Dog Throwing Up?

Photo by Christos Petrou on Flickr

Like humans, dogs are susceptible to diabetes. One health issue you may deal with if your dog has diabetes is your diabetic dog throwing up.

While it can be terrifying to deal with a dog that is vomiting due to its condition, it is important to remain calm, properly assess the situation, and provide your dog the care it needs. 

Vomiting in a Diabetic Dog

Vomiting in diabetic dogs can indicate several things, including an empty stomach, intestinal irritants, inflammation of the pancreas, and conditions affecting other organs in addition to the liver.

If your dog vomits within 30 minutes of ingesting food, you should immediately take him for a medical diagnosis.

Early detection can help prevent complications that might otherwise require hospitalization or surgery.

How to treat vomiting in a dog with diabetes

Keep your dog at home and monitor his glucose levels.

If vomiting persists for more than four hours, you should take him to the veterinarian immediately.

A blood test will be performed to determine if he has ketones in his bloodstream, indicating a severe issue requiring emergency care or immediate treatment.

Diabetic gastroparesis is another type of nausea that can occur in diabetic dogs following meals because their stomachs often do not empty in a timely fashion when digesting high-carbohydrate foods.

This condition causes the stomach’s muscles to relax too much while digesting food, leading to slow digestion and discomfort during this process due to pressure on the vagus nerve from the swelling of swollen gastric folds.

You should feed your dog four or five small meals daily instead of one to two large meals to prevent this.

Insulin, dogs, and vomiting

If your dog is vomiting after eating, the insulin you have provided him may not be working as effectively as it should.

You can combat this by delivering smaller amounts of insulin at more frequent intervals throughout the day to prevent such issues from recurring.

Or, if your pet hasn’t been diagnosed yet with diabetes, but he is throwing up frequently without any other symptoms or complications, you might want to consider having his blood glucose levels tested on a routine basis, so you’ll know whether he’s diabetic or prediabetic in the event he eventually develops that condition in the future.

Other Diabetic Medical Issues in Dogs

Besides vomiting, there are other medical issues that arise when dealing with a diabetic dog. Here are a few of the most common:

Diarrhea in diabetic dogs

Diabetic diarrhea is usually a sign that there is too much glucose in the bloodstream. With this condition, glucose leaks out of the intestines into the stomach and small intestine before being absorbed by cells.

This can create a dangerous cycle of frequent urination with subsequent dehydration, nausea, and vomiting. There are three primary types of diarrhea prone to diabetic dogs:

Occult or dietary-associated

Occurs when your dog consumes too many carbohydrates, which leads to rapid increases in blood sugar levels after meals.

It may also indicate an abnormal carbohydrate metabolism issue associated with decreased food tolerance or absorption issues within the digestive tract.

Diarrhea with underlying gastrointestinal disease 

Can accompany pancreatic disease or another illness affecting the intestinal tract. Such conditions often cause pain or irritation along with food intolerance or malabsorption issues.

Chronic idiopathic 

This type of diarrhea may occur in the absence of abnormal blood glucose levels and is often a sign that your dog has an underlying disease affecting his intestinal tract.

Common causes include inflammatory bowel disease, bacterial infections, parasites, tumors, and recurring pancreatitis.

In addition, chronic idiopathic diarrhea is often exacerbated by stressors such as medications or psychological conditions, causing irritability or aggression in pets with this condition.

In some cases, however, it isn’t preceded by any other symptoms despite the need for immediate veterinary attention to combat dehydration and resolve the problem before it worsens.

Diarrhea can be dangerous for dogs suffering from diabetes because they have less body mass to withstand water loss than healthy dogs do.

If your pet is vomiting and has bouts of diarrhea, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment so that you can prevent dehydration and other potentially life-threatening complications from occurring.

Excessive Thirst or Urination in Dogs with Diabetes

Dogs with diabetes often experience intense urges to drink large amounts of water at one time, which can cause them to develop conditions like bladder stones or acute renal failure.

This is because their bodies are dehydrated due to excess urination (polyuria), and ingesting too much water at one time causes the development of crystals that can lead to infection or other medical problems.

If your dog develops these symptoms, try limiting their water intake through multiple small meals throughout the day instead of drinking from his bowl all at once.

Additionally, you should talk with your veterinarian about administering a diuretic, which can help improve your pet’s symptoms by increasing his urination at regular intervals.

Diabetic Pets and Urinary Tract Diseases

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are another common condition in dogs with diabetes that may require medical treatment.

Your veterinarian will recommend urine tests to determine the presence of infection, but there are several other telltale signs that your dog has UTI:

  • Increased frequency of urinating
  • Blood or pus present in the urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Painful or burning sensations when urinating
  • Signs of frequent licking and marking around the areas where he relieves himself

If you notice any of these warning signs, take your pet to see his veterinarian right away.

They will perform a physical examination, review his records and collect a urine sample to test for UTIs.

If the test results indicate that your dog is experiencing an infection, he will likely require medical treatment to help him recover.

Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or medication designed to improve the flow of urine from his bladder (antispasmodics).

In dire cases where symptoms have not improved with medications, your pet may require surgery to remove some or all of his infected urinary tract.

Dehydration in Dogs with Diabetes

Some dogs with diabetes experience dehydration because they are constantly drinking water when their bodies have little need for it.

Dehydration can also occur if your pet experiences other forms of fluid loss like vomiting or diarrhea, which often accompany other symptoms of diabetes.

Most dogs with diabetes should receive a few teaspoons of water at regular intervals between meals in addition to drips from their water bowls.

But if you notice that your dog is drinking more than usual, or they are constantly urinating and not producing much urine, take them to the vet right away.

Prompt treatment can save him from developing acute renal failure or other complications.

Diabetic Pets and Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease also occurs frequently in dogs with diabetes because they cannot metabolize fats and healthy animals due to hyperglycemia (excessive sugar levels in the blood).

If untreated, fatty liver disease can cause irreversible damage or even death.

The first signs of this complication usually appear when your dog is between nine and twelve years old.

Some veterinarians recommend regular blood tests for diabetes at this point, but most do not advise treatment until a dog begins to exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Dark urine (instead of clear yellow)
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
  • Weight loss without changes in diet or exercise routine    

If you notice any of these signs, take your pet to see his veterinarian right away. Several different treatments can help reduce fatty liver disease, including dietary modification and medications like insulin.

But if left untreated, it may lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and even death.

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the body cannot efficiently utilize glucose or its principal carbohydrate source.

Without proper utilization of carbohydrates, fat and protein are used for energy instead.

The disposal of these alternate sources of energy results in the abnormal accumulation of byproducts called ketones.

Several factors can cause diabetes, including pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), intestinal disease, Cushing’s disease, acromegaly (abnormal growth hormone production), steroids, and medications like glucocorticoids.

Drugs like phenylbutazone (also known as “bute”) may also result in insulin resistance when given at high doses for prolonged periods.

Diabetes usually begins as insulin resistance and eventually progresses to the destruction of the insulin-producing Beta cells in the pancreas.

How Does Diabetes Affect Dogs?

Generally, dogs have to drink more water to deal with their body’s increased fluid requirements, which often results in increased urination.

In addition, the urine will have a characteristic odor due to excess ketones present, including acetone – which is also the principal ingredient of nail polish remover.

Dogs are more prone than humans to developing diabetes mellitus because they lack the “stress” hormone cortisol, which usually causes an increase in glucose production by the liver during times of stress.

Interestingly, owner reports indicate that some forms of canine epilepsy can be controlled if normal amounts of glucocorticoids are given before administering seizure medication.

How to Avoid Diabetes in Your Dog

Dogs do not become diabetic overnight, so you can take steps to avoid an unnecessary diagnosis of this condition.

Consider each of the following tips as you work to keep your pet healthy:

Train your dog well

Dogs learn through repetitive positive-reinforcement methods like clicker training, which requires minimal physical contact or treats.

These approaches have been known to reduce stress in dogs and thus lower their risk of developing diabetes.

Control their diet

Some foods contain natural sources of sugars, which can contribute to diabetes development. You must know what your dog eats and the nutritional value of the ingredients in their food. If you are unsure, consult with your veterinarian.

Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity increases a dog’s risk of developing diabetes.

Because dogs do not have sweat glands, they cannot easily regulate their body temperature during exercise.

Cooling off after playing outside is often done by panting or licking their fur.

However, shedding extra pounds can help your dog maintain ideal temperatures when they play outdoors or exercises for extended periods (more than 20 minutes) indoors.

You should consult with your veterinarian about how much food and calories are necessary each day to keep your pet at a healthy weight without compromising his daily activities.

Be proactive about healthcare

If you think your dog might have diabetes, schedule a checkup with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Early detection of the condition is essential for developing an appropriate treatment plan that can potentially delay or eliminate the need for insulin injections.

Your Vet May Suggest Tests to Determine if Your Dog Has Diabetes

Depending on your dog’s symptoms and risk factors, your veterinarian may recommend one or more diagnostic tests to determine whether he has diabetes:

Fasting blood glucose test

This test involves taking blood samples from a fasted pet early in the morning before his breakfast bowl is provided.

The results will indicate how much glucose is present in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) within four to six hours of fasting.

The normal levels for dogs are 50 mg/dL or less.

If your pet’s results are higher than this, he may be prediabetic and require additional testing to confirm a diagnosis of diabetes.

One-day diet history chart

Your veterinarian will ask you what you fed your dog on the previous day.

Then they can determine if he had ingested any food that might contain excessive amounts of sugar like carrots, sweet potatoes, corn syrup, and other foods humans consume but often does not realize could potentially cause problems in dogs, especially when those foods negatively impact their blood glucose levels.

At-home test kits are also available, which allow owners to track their pet’s blood glucose levels at home over several days.

Two-hour postprandial blood glucose test

This is another diagnostic tool that your veterinarian can use to determine if your dog has diabetes.

After a meal, they will collect two blood samples from your pet 30 and 60 minutes after the food is consumed.

This will help them understand how his body responds to sugar in the bloodstream following a meal.

The results will indicate the amount of glucose present in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) within two hours after eating.

Ideal levels for dogs are 70 mg/dL or less after eating a high-carbohydrate meal and 40 mg/dL or less after eating a low-carbohydrate meal like meat.

Results between these values suggest that your dog may have diabetes, as this is also the range in which prediabetic dogs can be found.

Results from the diagnostic tests will help your veterinarian determine if your dog has diabetes.

If he does, they may recommend that you take him home and monitor his blood glucose levels between meal times for days or weeks.

This will give you a better idea of how much insulin to provide as part of his treatment plan and which foods might help control his symptoms or even prevent them altogether.

Final Thoughts on Managing Diabetes in Your Dog

Dogs with diabetes can live long, healthy lives if they receive regular blood testing and follow-up care from a veterinarian who specializes in their condition.

By monitoring your pet closely, you can help him avoid these problems, although he may need to take insulin injections for the rest of his life.

But by taking good care of your diabetic dog’s health every day, you will make sure that he remains happy and healthy with you for as long as possible.