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Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Dogs

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is an incredibly serious metabolic complication of diabetes mellitus. When a canine experiences an elevated concetration of blood sugar, they can develop a high concetration of ketones in their urine, and a subsequent loss of bicardonate in their blood. If left untreated, diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to neurological problems due to swelling of the brain, kidney failure, pancreatitis, anemia, and even death. 




The symptoms for diabetic ketoacidosis are similar to diabetes mellitus, but more severe. They include:


  • Insatiable thirst

  • Large increase or decrease in appetite

  • Frequent urination and lack of urinary control

  • Severe weight gain or weight loss

  • Lethargy and lack of responsiveness

  • Vomiting




Ketoacidosis occurs after a dog has developed diabetes mellitus and becomes subsequently dependent upon insulin to break down glucose in their blood. The extreme condition arises most frequently after periods of high stress, surgery, or serious infections affecting either the urinary tract, respiratroy system, or skin. Other disease likes heart failure, asthma, cancer, and kidney problems can also contribute to a higher risk of Ketoacidosis occurrence in dogs.



Dogs who develop diabetes ketoacidosis, but are otherwise healthy, can be treated with regular short-acting crystalline insulin injections to help get serum glucose levels back under control. It may take a few days for serum glucose and urine ketone levels to fall, but aggressive treatment may not be needed as long as the dog's condition is basically stable.


Treatment of sick diabetic dogs needs to be more aggressive. If your dog experiences prolonged periods of vomiting, intravenous replacement of fluid is extremely important, as well as the maintenance of normal fluid balance. Phosphate supplementation may also be needed, since serum phosphorus concentrations can drop to dangerously low levels during the treatment of DKA. Bicarbonate replacement and insulin are also vital in the treatment of DKA. In general, fluids need to be replaced quickly, while the glucose levels will need gradual adjustment.


If you believe your dog is exhibiting signs of diabetic ketoacidosis, it is important that you visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. 


Additional Resources

Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Dogs, Upstate Animal Medical Center


Dogabetix is a community for diabetic dog owners--we are not licensed professionals. Before making any important decisions for treating your diabetic dog, please consult a veterinarian

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