A Dog with Diabetes: Drinking Too Much Water May Be a Sign of Trouble

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By Dr Sophia Yin

The problem with treating pets is that they can’t tell you what’s wrong which can make being a veterinarian quite tricky. For instance for the general practitioner in a busy area of town, not a week goes by where someone comes in with an animal with an old festering wound or a large relatively slow growing tumor, who says, “It just appeared yesterday”. Or owners who have no idea if their pet’s appetite or energy level are normal.  Luckily for veterinarians, sometimes owners are quite observant and help draw a beeline to what’s wrong.

Take for instance my visit with Mrs. Ecks and her dog Whyzee.

It went something like this:

I entered the room and there she was, sitting expectantly on the exam table. An 8-year old adult Chihuahua as soft as a stuffed burrito. She stood and wagged her tail at me and her whole rear-end followed.

Why was she here? Vaccines? Routine geriatric exam? Heart disease? Dental Work-up? As usual, a view from across the room yielded scant clues. Luckily the record held a hint.

“Urine problem,” it stated in the familiar handwriting of the hospital receptionist.

Good. That narrowed it down to about twenty or thirty conditions. I was ready for more information so I made my move.

“Hi, Mrs. Ecks. What can we do for Whyzee today?”

“Well for the past few days she’s been drinking a lot, urinating a lot, and her breath smells like acetone. She also seems much hungrier than normal.”

A suspiciously simple diagnosis, I scanned Mrs. Ecks for a hidden camera. Was she a spy sent by the hospital owner to check on my diagnostic abilities? Probably not. If so, the case wouldn’t have been so easy. Was she a nurse? Did she already know what Whyzee had? Or was she just a very astute owner with an uncommonly accurate sense of smell?

While examining Whyzee, I politely drilled Mrs. Ecks like a detective looking for signs that the story was fake. “How long has this been going on? Has her appetite changed? Does she squat frequently and urinate frequent small amounts? Has she had any accidents in the house? Has she been raiding the garbage can? And so on. When I was satisfied with my preliminary investigation, I asked her the big question.

“Do you know what disease you’ve described?”

“No. What?” She looked at me with a face as innocent as Whyzee’s.

Many Diseases Cause Excessive Drinking and Urination

Theoretically, Whyzee could have one of many diseases leading to excessive water drinking and excessive urination. These could range from a brain tumor affecting the thirst center of the brain to the more common kidney disease, liver disease, adrenal gland disease, diabetes mellitus, and cancer of the lymph tissues. These latter diseases cause both dogs and cats to urinate excessively and consequently they have to drink enough to keep up on their water balance. Water restriction in these cases leads to dehydration, which can quickly cause the kidneys to conk out.

Whyzee’s new-found voracious appetite, which often presents as a dog that suddenly starts raiding the garbage can, pointed either to diabetes or to Cushing’s disease, a disease of the adrenal gland, which rests on top of the kidneys and produces corticosteroids and other hormones. Both diseases can also lead to increased infections. Whyzee didn’t have any external signs of infection and a urine culture to help diagnosis bladder or kidney infection wouldn’t be back for a few days.

Her bad breath was the giveaway. The majority of dogs with death breath have dental disease, but Whyzee’s were sparkling clean. Sudden bad breath can signal systemic diseases such as kidney or liver failure. Both organs play a part in ridding the body of toxic nitrogen compounds and when the compounds build up in the body, their odor is sometimes detectable on a dog or cat’s breath. Mrs. Eck’s description of an acetone odor though, indicated diabetes. Acetone and related compounds build up in the blood of uncontrolled diabetics.

As you might guess, smelling a pet’s breath is not a definitive diagnostic test, even along with the other appropriate history. Only a thorough exam of the urine and blood could tell for sure and show whether Whyzee had other problems too. Her lab results, like her owner’s description, read like a blurb out of The Textbook of Canine and Feline Endocrinology: Sky high glucose in both the blood and urine. It was the glucose in the urine that was drawing water with it thus leading to excessive urination. Whyzee clearly had diabetes, and according to the blood work, it was uncomplicated by other diseases.

Untreated diabetes can progress to vomiting and diarrhea, loss of appetite and thirst, and eventually coma and death, so we immediately started Whyzee on insulin. Since sensitivity to administered insulin can also cause serious signs, including seizure and death, we also monitored her in the hospital for the first day or so too.

Of course that was just the start. From now on Whyzee would require special care. A select diet, daily insulin injections, and regular veterinary visits to check blood and urine for glucose and signs of other disease. Fortunately as with humans, pets often manage very well with this care and they can be trained that getting their injections and visiting the hospital are fun—which make both easier for everyone. And, if Mrs. Ecks was always as observant as she revealed that day, I was betting I’d be seeing them both of them around for some time.


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73 responses to “A Dog with Diabetes: Drinking Too Much Water May Be a Sign of Trouble

  1. My dog is diabetic. Here recently he has started drinking a lot more water than usual. Is this an indication that his insulin dosage needs to be adjusted?

    1. My Maltese/Shitzu is doing the same thing as well as constant urination, and I mean a lot of wee. Does she need insulin adjustment as well.

    2. My dog is diabetic insulin-dependent to. my vet told me less of water drinking means the insulin is doing it job so possibly more water intake means it’s not enough insulin but you should go to your vet like I do have what it called glucose curve that’s when vet monitor your animal for 8 hours

    3. Can drinking and peeing more than usual also mean the insulin is too high a dose or just too little?
      I upped from 8-9u just yesterday and she’s had two accidents. At 8 she didn’t have many by bg was irratic.

  2. Dr Lin;
    I have a 10 year old Mini Dachound who has lately been eating too much and drinking water constantly.
    Please advice.


    1. Unfortunately, we cannot diagnose medical problems over the internet because we cannot examine your dog. For medical problems, please see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

      Thank you.

    2. My vet requires I bring my dogs in every 6 months for an insulin curve in order to continue issuing them insulin. You should at least have an annual insulin curve for your diabetic pet.

      1. You can go to Walmart and buy Novin N it’s human insulin works great! 25.00 much cheaper no Rx needed just ask the girl in pharmacy.

  3. im taking my dog in tomorrow for a check up. the following changes over last 3 months: excessive drinking of water, frequent toilet, panting often, some moaning, bloating. very round and hard tummy area and a new one where she licks her bedding and the back of our legs and is now looking for more food in her bowl….she is going on 11 and half years old…a jack russel/corgie mix.

    1. Very similar symptoms for past week for our eight-year-old Yorky… Have you found anything out about your dog?

    2. The bloating round tummy is the give away for liver disease.
      Have a friend experiencing the same with her dobe at the moment

    3. Hi I have the exact same problem with my Jack Russell, did you come to any resolutions? I would appreciate any advice you could give.

    4. Hard tummy bloating pancreatitis and diabetic dog owners if u can afford a curve test at vets I learned to do at home myself and you can too. My Yorker got pancreatitis first and then yr later diabetes and in large liver, dry skin, rash and blind for diabetes oct 2016 stated and now April 2019 still alive doing good – home curves every six months to check his insulin. Vet too to ck blood work and urinalysis he is now going to be 11 yr and feed only chicken and little rice x2 day every 12hrs. And in small dogs try curve stick in tail easier was God send for me to c on YouTube bc didn’t work any where else. Good luck Love your babies!

      1. hi Lorene,
        my miniature schnauzer did have pancreatitis and we had him undergo an operation which was successful according to the vet. Unfortunately he is a diabetic now and we cook his meal, feed him every 12 hours and give him his injections. I think he’s doing well but we haven’t been able to do a good sugar reading though we bought the equipment for it. You said something about the tail but I couldn’t quite understand it. Any advice would be appreciated!!!

    5. My 10 year old toy poodle weighs 15 lbs, dolly polly. She has always drank a lot, always hungry & panted a lot but is doing more the last 3 days. She’s drinking excessively, Voiding constantly, panting non stop & wants to eat non stop.

  4. i would like to know the symptoms of diabetes for my dog the only change in him he lot of water he got down in back leg and him back he is so much better today he slipped on the flood ,

  5. I am pretty sure that my dog has diabetes, or kidney disease. I am taking her to the vet on Friday… She drinks a LOT (sometimes waking me in the middle of the night 4 or 5 times!). She is 16 1/2 years old. I am wondering, if the vet puts her on insulin, if her excessive thirst will get better?

      1. Not true my dog is diabetic since she’s been on insulin she’s back to her old self again playing energetic

        1. Mine too. She got cataracts and still loves playing at the dog park! My baby is only 6. And she’s drinking half the amount of water she used to!

    1. At that age could be urinary tract infection might have to upgrade the food like to Blue Buffalo and please take dog to vet to find out

  6. My dogs blood sugar was high so gave him insulin. How long does it take to at least bring it down some so feels some better

  7. My Jack Russell was just diagnosed with diabetes I have been giving her shots for the past three weeks she has not changed in her drinking or her excessive urination as of yet this will be the third time that I am bringing her back to the veterinarian. They still haven’t gotten it right yet they don’t want to give me the numbers it’s like I have to ask them. I just wonder if they have seen a lot of dogs with diabetes. They had her in the office for a day they should have gotten it close to her being stable but they didn’t apparently . She just isn’t the same since I brought her in and I feel worried . Do yourself a favor get another opinion just like when you go to the doctor get another opinion

    1. I agree I took my dog to second vet but when they keep your dog all day they’re monitoring the levels so they know how to adjust the insulin it took me four trips I’m poor now but my doggy is doing better???

      1. I have taken my 12 year old dog 3 times cost over $800.00 and finally put her on 4 cc of insulant, they want her back Monday. we need cheaper vets. , hope that’s it. she is back to her old self

  8. My 11 year old Scottish Terrier was diagnosed with diabetes over a year ago. He receives insulin shots twice daily and has been doing very well. I test his urine before each shot and adjust his insulin accordingly. He has to have food in his stomach before an insulin injection which is easier with the second shot than the first. After doing so well, something has now changed, his thirst and urination have increased greatly. He had blood work done yesterday and nothing over the top stood out. No abnormal breath or other bodily odors. Anyone else experiencing a similar scenario?

    1. Hi Mary!
      We are! My 11 year old miniature poodle was doing so great and then all of a sudden it’s like he aged about 6 years…his thirst is unquenched despite drinking and drinking and drinking. We have bowls all over the house…my little guy had blood tests too and nothing of great concern. I don’t know what to do…he is also waking me up during the night to go pee. Not as often as he was though. But his drinking is getting worse. I used to count the number of licks but now it’s the amount of time he’s still drinking..have you had any luck finding out how to help our little dogs??? Thanks!

      1. Your lucky he wakes you up to pee, i had to buythe belly wraps for mind because he started peeing in his crate at night, now he has figured out how to get them off so I have switched to the diapers that look like pampers but the small is to small and the medium is way to big. He takes 3 units of insulin in the morning, i am wondering if we need it twice a day or if I should give if to him at night instead. I guess another tril to the bet is in order.

  9. We have a 11 yr old full breed maltese. He had bladder stones removed few months back.now he has liver problems and is being treated by a vet.first time we took him there 3 weeks ago he could not drink water or eat.The tip of his tongue was brown and she said it was dead.the brown has now disappeared. we had to tube feed him food and water.the brown has disappeared and he is eating normal however drinking an excessive amount of water.could he have diabetes.

  10. Our dog supposedly only has diabetes. He is five years old and has completed several curves as well as a second opinion. Although his blood sugar is stable he seems lethargic, excessively drinks and pees everywhere..
    So hopeless after 4 months..

    1. Hi.. My dog was initially diagnosed with Cushing’s disease (adrenal glands) and then the emergency vet said they made a mistake and she was diabetic…? Well, I happen to be type 1 diabetic and she fit the bill, but I don’t know if she ALSO has Cushing’s? (I don’t know if that’s possible?) When you said “supposedly only has diabetes”, I was wondering what you meant by that?

      1. My dog has Cushings & diabetes. Absolutely unfortunately they can have both. I’m broke buying meds & all meat (ckn) diet. My baby still suffers everyday.

  11. My dog is recently diagnosed with diabetes. I took her in for 24 hour observation. They charged me $1,000 per day. No results were given. I’m giving her 1.5 iu of insulin twice a day, she is drinking all night and peeing all night, is one large bowl of water enough. Will it hurt her if she doesn’t have an endless stream of water ?

  12. My dog eats just 3 times a day but it seems she always wants more. She drinks maybe a little more than she used too but she is eight years old and her breath smells me dine like. This all just started a couple of months ago. Thanks so much…..

  13. My min pin sugar is finally stable after 2 curves and 3 units of U40 insulin 2x a day. He was diagnosed in September. He still drinks and wees excessively even though his urinalysis and blood work is coming back unremarkable.

  14. My puggle was diagnosed with diabetes on October 20. We have been trying to get her stable, increasing her insulin 3x.

    For all you owners of diabetic dogs – if your dogs eye start to look cloudy – get her to a vet right away. My girl developed glaucoma OVERNITE – had a luxated lens in her right eye. Her left eye had a huge cataract which also developed overnight. We had to have the lens eye removed but were able to save the right eye. If I had waited, the cataract eye could have been beyond saving as well. DO NOT wait until the diabetes is controlled if you think she has cataracts. Take her to a canine opthamologist asap. ANd bring your wheelbarrow full of cash……

  15. my dog is a Shitz Zu and been peeing for days all over the rug and hardware floor without even telling us. She is 10 years old and been drinking excessively large amounts of water and sometimes food too. Even though she finished her water bowl, she always checks for more everytime she sleeps every 5 minutes. We don’t want to give anymore water or else she is going to pee in the house. And my dad and I are just hating that we have to clean up her mess every morning.

    -Alyssa Dominguez (18yrsold) Future Sailor

    1. Hi: First off thank you for looking to serve. As for your dog, have her checked out by your vet. She likely has a medical issue that needs to be addressed as soon as you can.

  16. My dog is a cairen mix terrier. He suddenly started drinking enormous amounts of water and peeing after about 15 minutes. Constantly sniffing everwhere for food. Did it once before and everthing was okay. Shall I take him to a vet again?

    1. Hi,
      Did you get a diagnosis for your dog? My 15 year old English Bulldog has the same symptoms but blood work is normal and vetscant figure it out…

      1. My rescue is 12 and recently started drinking and urinating often. My groomer said there is a condition that his dogs blood work came back normal but his country vet said the dog had insipidus diabetes. He gave the dog an eye drop every day and the lived it’s life out fine and stopped drinking excessively immediately. He said he had to order the drops and not many vets know of this. Just saying, waiting for my dogs results tomorrow. Linda

  17. My dog has all similar symptoms. She had an infection in her eyes, one eye being worse then the other. That was 2 weeks ago. Then about 3 days ago she started peeing everywhere in small puddles. She drinks a fair amount of water but not excessively. And also has a distended stomach. Now just yesterday1/28 she started having blood in her urine. A bright red, I seen it in the snow.
    She has an appointment today at noon, I guess I’m just anxious and nervous to know.
    Does this sound like she’s diabetic?

    1. Yes my 11 yr old yorkie took
      People insulin from Walmart and he never had the other v one but he constantly drank water, peed. Woke me up at night 4 times to go and after 8 months suddenly started vomiting for a day then passed away the next day. I’m still crying my eyes out. Don’t know what happened but this was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life. He also went totally blind after being monitored for months and his insulin being good? I don’t know if I would give walmart insulin to a pet again, they say it’s the same but I never got to try the other one for pets. I miss him more than anything in the world every day.

  18. My 10 year old schnauzer was diagnosed diabetes so we put him on ventilin and I had to find a cheaper insulin so I found out they have some at Walmart that my vet gives to a lot of her clients and it’s under 25dollars but they started him on 3 units and a couple days later uped him to 5 but he has wet his bed in his kennel 2 times and drinking water like crazy so I’m goin back to the ventilin Monday as soon as I get to the vet has any one else tryed the insulin from Walmart? And how long did it take to get him from drinking and peeing so much.

  19. My Yorkshire terrier was diagnosed with diabetes four days ago he is on Insulin 1.5 twice a day after his food. He is still drinking a lot and has had a few accidents peeing in the house. He goes back to the vet in a weeks time. Why is he drinking a lot. He is still lively. Should I take his water away especially at night or restrict the amount of water. Any advice would be greatful thank you

  20. My dog has diabetes and kidney disease and being treated for both. Never restrict or take away your pet’s water per our vet. When your pet is drinking excessively it is their body trying to compensate for fluid loss which means there is something wrong with them and they need to be checked by a vet. You need to call your vet and let them know. Don’t wait until your appt. The health of your dog can decline quickly.

  21. My morkie (Maltese Yorkie mix) has just been diagnosed with diabetes, we found out because I took him to the vet since I been noticing his spine and ribs through his skin plus drinking and peeing a lot. The vet wanted to hospitalize him since she found keytones in the urine and blood sugar was in the 400s and I don’t have the money to do that so she prescribed nph (novolin) insulin starting now at 1 unit every 12 hrs with food and he is only allowed to eat when he takes the insulin. He won’t eat his dry food but is practally inhaling the wet food. His is still running around and barks like crazy still when he hears noises. He has been on the Walmart insulin for 1 and a half days. Recheck is scheduled tomorrow. I am giving the Walmart insulin the novolin n. How long is it taking everyone to notice any changes??? Also I’m still giving his normal food but with only two feedings a day now how will I know if I’m giving him enough food??

    1. I know this is a an old post but my Maltese sounds just like yours. He’s 6, drinks incessantly, pees constantly. I can feel all of his spine and rib bones. He’s also lost a lot of hair. He was fine the first 4 days n 1 unit isulin (Walmart) then back to the same drinking and peeing . He’s on 2 insulin now but still peeing and drinking.

      They think he may have Cushings, too. And has Ketones in his urine. I’m wondering what to do at this point. Luckily he has pet insurance so that helps.

  22. I have a 6 year old Chihuahua she was just diagnosed with diabetes 2 months ago she is on vetsulin she takes four units in the morning three units at night she seems to be getting worse not better took her to the vet today $900 later they still don’t know what’s wrong with her she won’t eat she drinks and pees drinks and pees drinks and pees and now she’s a point where she won’t eat at all can anybody tell me what causes this they checked your pancreas said she doesn’t have pancreatitis they gave her an antibiotic and they gave her any nausea medicine I brought her home after they did the sonogram said that she should feel a little better they gave her something to make her eat she still won’t eat and she staying at the bowl of water drink drink drink out the door to pee back in the house drink drink drink flops down on the lace there gets up and wants to go pee again we’ve been home for 4 hours she’s already went out six times please anybody help

    1. My dachshund was recently diagnosed with diabetes and they were worried he had developed ketoacidosis which happens when diabetes has gone untreated. It would require several days of hospitalization to get his glucose down to manageable numbers. They would administer insulin every two hours in small doses and monitor constantly + IV nutrition. If the diabetes has gone on too long without treatment it takes a while to get it under control and is very dangerous. If your dog isn’t eating it could mean keto acidosis. If your vet isn’t looking at this, you should go somewhere else for a second opinion.

  23. My dog Mati was doing fine on her vetsulinand now she won’t let me give her the shots
    She has bit me twice and now I’m scared 😫 to give it!! She has also lost her appetite and only wants to drink water and is loosing her pee again she is very depressed and k 😥 don’t know what to do. CAn I give her vetsulin if she hasn’t eaten in 2 days?? Please help!!

  24. My dog is on 3units insulin last few days drinking and peeing a lot again does he need more or less insulin he’s eating and active the other nite I think he moved and he didn’t get fill 3 units would that do it

  25. My dog is on 3units insulin last few days drinking and peeing a lot again does he need more or less insulin he’s eating and active the other nite I think he moved and he didn’t get full 3 units would that do it

  26. My dog is 13yr old Chihuahua she’s been drinking lots of water and won’t eat. Had her to the Vet 2weeks ago her glucose was 44 cause she hadn’t eaten and I gave her the shot prior to seeing the vet.

  27. My 13 year old dog Kalvan, he was diagnosed yesterday as diabetic. He’s been drinking a lot of water, did his 2nd dose of insulin this am. How long before he stops downing so much water?

    1. Sorry to hear about this. You will need to ask your vet but normally it’s after the dog’s blood sugar stabilizes. This can take days or weeks. Your vet will know your dog better.

  28. My dog has only been on the insulin 1 day and I have noticed she is drinking WAY less water. Does it work that quickly? Before she was drinking excessively. About 20 cups a day. Now about half that amount. Is that a good thing? And does it work that quickly?

    1. Yes. It works instantly on the body. It’s how the body regulates glucose uptake. Please for your dog’s sake read up on canine diabetes.

  29. Hi, my dog has been diagnosed with diabetes now. She has insulin but it has been a struggle to get her to have two meals a day. The morning meal she often doesn’t eat so can’t have her insulin. My vet said that’s ok but don’t try to give her more insulin in the evening. So we have trouble to actually control her diabetes. The vet fee has been very high so far but insurance did give us some money back. We have still had to pay out over £400 that the insurance won’t help with. Our dog is 10 years old and a cross between border Terrier and a chihuahua so is not very big. She seems to have one day with her insulin in the morning and evening. And then has two days only having one dose of insulin. Does anyone have this problem? Thank you for reading. From Lin G

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