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High Blood Sugar in Dogs

Hyperglycemia in Dogs

Hyperglycemia in dogs refers to the condition where there’s an excessive amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Glucose, a simple carbohydrate, serves as a primary energy source for the body, with normal levels typically ranging between 75-120mg.

Insulin, a hormone produced and released by the pancreas, regulates glucose levels by facilitating its uptake into cells. However, insufficient insulin production or function leads to elevated blood sugar levels. Causes of hyperglycemia include pancreatitis, which impairs insulin production, hormonal fluctuations (particularly in female dogs), dietary factors, and infections such as those affecting the teeth or urinary tract.

Middle-aged and older dogs, especially females, are more prone to hyperglycemia. While any breed can be affected, certain smaller breeds like beagles, cairn terriers, dachshunds, miniature poodles, and schnauzers are more predisposed to the condition.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms and types of hyperglycemia can vary depending on the underlying condition. In some cases, your dog may not exhibit serious symptoms, particularly if the elevated blood sugar is due to temporary factors like hormones or stress. However, common symptoms may include:

  • Increased thirst (polydipsia)
  • Increased urination (polyuria)
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Obesity
  • Excessive hunger
  • Dehydration
  • Cataracts
  • Bloodshot eyes (resulting from inflamed blood vessels)
  • Enlargement of the liver
  • Nerve damage in the legs
  • Severe depression (especially in cases of significantly high blood sugar levels)
  • Non-healing wounds; increased risk of infection as excess sugar provides a feeding ground for fungal and bacterial invaders
  • Tissue damage due to the oxidative (burning) effect of excess sugar on tissues.


Causes of hyperglycemia in dogs can stem from various sources. Apart from high-stress situations, adverse drug interactions (such as those with heartworm medication), and the consumption of nutritional products rich in glucose, the following factors may contribute to elevated blood sugar levels:

  • Insufficient glucose utilization within the body, leading to elevated blood sugar levels:
      • Diabetes mellitus
      • Acute pancreatitis
      • Elevated progesterone levels
      • Inadequate waste excretion by the kidneys
      • Increased glucose production
  • Physiological causes:
      • Shortly after meals
      • Physical exertion
      • Excitement
      • Stress
  • Infections:
      • Infections within the body can elevate blood sugar levels
      • Dental infections
      • Kidney infections
      • Urinary tract infections
  • Endocrine disorders:
    • Hyperadrenocorticism
    • Pheochromocytoma
    • Glucagonoma
    • Pancreatic neoplasia


To diagnose hyperglycemia in dogs, your veterinarian will conduct a comprehensive blood profile, which includes a chemical blood profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis. Immediate testing of blood samples will determine blood sugar levels, often revealing elevated levels, especially in cases linked to temporary factors like stress or hormonal fluctuations. Typically, if there’s no underlying disease present, blood test results will appear normal.

Urinalysis may show elevated sugar levels, presence of pus, bacteria, and an excess of ketone bodies, indicating diabetes mellitus. Low insulin levels combined with high blood glucose levels further suggest diabetes mellitus. Elevated levels of lipase and amylase enzymes indicate pancreatic inflammation. In some instances, increased liver enzyme levels may indicate fatty deposits in the liver tissue. Abdominal X-rays and ultrasound can provide valuable insights into the underlying condition.

Further diagnostic tests may be necessary to pinpoint the exact cause. Providing a detailed history of your dog’s health, symptom onset, and any relevant incidents can assist your veterinarian in identifying potential underlying organs causing secondary symptoms. Previous infections could also contribute to elevated glucose levels, so informing your veterinarian about any past infections is crucial for accurate diagnosis.


Treatment for hyperglycemia in dogs varies depending on the underlying cause. When hyperglycemia results from physiological factors, such as stress, efforts should be made to minimize or eliminate the stressors.

Abruptly lowering blood sugar levels is not advisable as it can lead to hypoglycemia. For diabetic patients, fluctuations in glucose levels are common, and adjusting insulin dosage or other medications may be necessary to manage the condition. There are instances where high glucose levels do not indicate a need for increased insulin and may even worsen with higher insulin doses. Your veterinarian will provide guidance on when to adjust insulin levels accordingly.

Living and Management

For dogs with diabetes, consistent commitment and compliance from the owner are essential for effective disease management. Special diets with reduced sugar content are necessary for these pets. Typically, a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-fat, and high-fiber diet is recommended. Owners of diabetic dogs must adhere strictly to the treatment plan provided to prevent significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

If insulin therapy is prescribed, it must be administered at the correct time and dosage. Changing the brand or dosage of insulin without consulting your veterinarian is strongly discouraged.

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