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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31 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

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

    Thanks.
    Pavi

    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.

  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. 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. 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 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???

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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..

  10. 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 ?

  11. 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…..

  12. 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.

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