Spaying and Neutering Dogs and Cats

spaying and nurturing

Are you wondering when is the right time to spay or neuter your dog or cat? Pet parents always have many questions surrounding spaying and neutering so let’s look at some basics to put your mind at ease!  

What Does it Mean to Spay or Neuter?

Both the spay and neuter procedures involve removing the reproductive organs responsible for creating more puppies and kittens! Spaying a female dog or cat is also known as an “ovariohysterectomy” (OVH) or “ovariectomy” (OVE). In the female dog or cat, these procedures remove the ovaries, with or without removal of the uterus, so she can no longer have heat cycles or become pregnant. Neutering, aka “castration”, involves removing both testicles from a male dog or cat.

Why Spay or Neuter?

Spay and neuter procedures have both obvious and lesser-known benefits. To state the obvious – removing the reproductive organs eliminates accidental breeding and the addition of litters of puppies and kittens to the already overflowing population of pets that need homes. Plus, no need to worry about cleaning up after that messy heat cycle that occurs every 6 months for female dogs!

Regarding the lesser-known benefits – spaying and neutering can provide pets with longer healthier lives! In female dogs and cats, spaying will protect from developing mammary (breast) cancer as well as a very serious and life-threatening hormone-based uterine infection called “pyometra”.

Neutering keeps male dogs safe by decreasing their desire to roam the neighborhood in search of a mate. In-tact (non-neutered) dogs are frequent flyers at veterinary emergency hospitals because they’ve escaped and been hit by a car or engaged in a dog fight causing serious injury. Also, due to the decrease in hormones due to the absence of testicles, neutered male dogs and cats may also be less likely to exhibit other undesirable “male” behaviors like urine marking/spraying, and some aggressive tendencies (however, some of these are learned behaviors and may not be affected). Also, the incidence of testicular cancer is eliminated in neutered male dogs, and diseases of the prostate are also decreased.

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What Age Is Best to Spay or Neuter a Puppy and Kitten?

The appropriate time to spay or neuter your puppy is a great conversation to have with your veterinarian due to the factors involved – the pet and family’s lifestyle, breed, and projected adult size. Most animal shelters and rescue organizations will alter their adoptees before they are placed in new homes, which can be as young as 8 weeks of age. Otherwise, the current AAHA guideline is to spay or neuter small breed dogs prior to their first heat cycle, which corresponds to about 6-8 months of age. For large breed dogs like Golden Retrievers, Labs, German Shepherds, and Rotties, there are some newer recommendations to wait until they are skeletally mature, which occurs around 1-1.5 years old. Why? Since large breed dogs mature later than small breeds, the latest research has shown that allowing a longer timeframe for growth and waiting to spay or neuter may decrease the incidence of certain cancers, orthopedic issues, and urinary incontinence. These issues do not affect small breed dogs like they do their larger friends.

For cats, spaying and neutering before maturity is recommended at approximately 5-6 months of age for both males and females.

Is Anesthesia and Pain Medication Dangerous?

Anesthesia and pain medication ensure that your pet is the most comfortable they can be before, during, and after the procedure. Since there is some inherent risk associated with anesthesia, your veterinarian will do their best to create the safest environment for your pet through a variety of measures like a physical exam, blood testing, checking vital signs throughout, and administering fluids. Pain and anti-inflammatory medications are sent home for several days following the procedure to ensure for the most comfortable and swift recovery period. Ultimately, the benefits of spaying and neutering outweigh the risks, and with safety precautions in place your pet’s health and best interests are always a priority.

How About That Recovery Period?

Just like humans, dogs and cats need some time to relax and heal after surgery! On average the full recovery time after a spay and neuter is about 10-14 days. During this time, it is recommended that they rest as much as possible, with no running or jumping. Some dogs and cats are very compliant patients, and others are ready to resume their normal active lives the very next day! Beware that your dog or cat’s movements will tug and pull at the sutures holding the incision together, possibly causing them to tear and open! Also, excess bleeding and swelling can accompany too much activity and complicate healing.

Keeping your dog or cat from licking and chewing that incision is critical too. They can quickly and easily dislodge the layers of sutures and cause serious injury to the area. The Elizabethan collar, aka the “cone of shame” is the most effective device to keep them from licking the area.

If your pet is not handling the recovery period well, communicate with your veterinarian for their recommendations and advice.

Our AskVet Veterinarians are available to discuss all of your pet’s needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether you have an immediate need or are looking to improve your pet’s overall wellbeing, just sign into your account and one of our friendly and knowledgeable veterinary experts will attend to your needs, no appointment required!


Written by:

Alexa Waltz, DVM

Dr. Waltz was raised near the beaches of Southern California but has spent her adult life living all over the beautiful United States while serving in the military and as a military spouse. She left California for the first time to pursue a career as a veterinarian at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. She was accepted into the US Army Health Professionals Scholarship Program during vet school and upon graduation spent her military years as a veterinarian in San Diego working for the US Marine Corps and US Navy Military Working Dog programs as well as caring for pets of service members. After her military service, she became a civilian veterinarian and continued as a small animal general practitioner at clinics in California, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Maryland. Dr Waltz loves to see her “in person” patients just as much as communicating with and assisting pet parents virtually on AskVet. Dr Waltz is also a Mom to 3 humans, 2 guinea pigs, and 1 Australian Shepherd and in her spare time she loves traveling, adventures, exercising, and doing just about anything out in nature!


German Shepherds

German Shephards

Courageous work dogs and faithful companions, German Shepherds have captivated dog lovers for generations. German Shepherds are easily identified by their pointed ears, square head, and long muzzle, along with their bushy tails and mid-length double coat. They also have that unmistakable German Shepherd temperament—part playful, part obedient, all fun.

German Shepherd Average Size and Life Expectancy

  • Height: 22-26 inches
  • Weight: 50-90 pounds
  • Life Span: 9-13 years



German Shepherd Characteristics and Traits


Affectionate with family 5/5
When it comes to these dogs, affectionate is an understatement. German Shepherds are a definitive family dog breed. The German Shepherd’s temperament is loving and loyal, meaning they’ll be waiting to greet you with kisses the moment you walk through the door.

Good with other dogs 3/5

While German Shepherds can get along with other dogs, they’re generally not the biggest fans, unless they’ve been raised together. Their nature makes them defensive, protective, and domineering when it comes to other pups, but with proper socialization, you can teach a German Shepherd to get along with another dog.

Good with children 5/5

Calm and sweet around little ones, there’s a reason so many parents choose German Shepherds as the companions for their young children. This breed loves to spend quality time with family.

Good with strangers 4/5

So long as the stranger appears friendly, German Shepherds are usually eager to make a new acquaintance. Early socialization and interactions with strangers will prime your dog for proper behavior when making human friends.

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Adapts well to apartment living 3/5

Surprisingly, this mid-sized breed can still thrive in tight quarters. As long as you provide proper exercise, frequent outings, and plenty of snuggles, your German Shepherd will be content living in a city apartment.

Good for novice owners 2/5

Despite the positives of German Shepherd behaviors, this breed can feel like a lot of work for a first-time dog owner. Frequent shedding, significant exercise requirements, and general neediness might make the task of raising a German Shepherd a little too difficult for inexperienced pet parents.

Sensitivity level 5/5

German Shepherds are partially known for their nervousness. Whether picking up on their owner’s anxiety or feeling frightened by their environment, the high sensitivity level of German Shepherds can take some getting used to and may require special treatment from time to time.

Tolerates being alone 2/5

Like so many dogs, German Shepherds aren’t interested in spending time alone. They much prefer to be by their owner’s side, no matter the situation.

Tolerates cold weather 4/5

A double coat means plenty of protection against extreme cold. In fact, German Shepherds are more prepared than most humans when it comes to weathering cold climates.

Tolerates hot weather 3/5

It may be surprising that a dog that thrives in cold weather can also put up with a little heat. Despite their warm coat, German Shepherds are equipped to handle warm days, so long as they’re given proper access to water and the opportunity to cool down now and again.

Health and Grooming Needs

Shedding level 4/5

These rugged canines are frequent shedders. You can expect year-round shedding from their outer coat, but their inner coat is also completely shed twice a year. Consider investing in a quality vacuum and discovering what shedding tools work best for you and your dog.

Coat grooming frequency 4/5

Due to their frequent shedding, it’s highly recommended that you tackle grooming regularly. Brush your German Shepherd a few times per week and keep up with regular nail clippings. In terms of bathing, it’s only necessary once or twice per year or in situations when your pup has gotten extra dirty.

Drooling level 1/5

A long snout doesn’t mean extra slobber. German Shepherds aren’t prone to drooling unless it’s over their dinner. Otherwise, this breed tends to keep its saliva inside its mouth—where it belongs.

Coat type/length 5/5

German Shepherds sport a luxurious double coat perfect for fall and winter layering. The undercoat is dense and soft, while the top layer, known as the guard coat, is more abrasive and slightly shaggy.

General health 4/5

This breed is generally considered well-rounded in its general health. That said, German Shepherds are genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia, bloat, and arthritis, mostly due to their size.

Potential for weight gain 2/5

German Shepherds prefer to be active and aren’t known to covet their food. Still, it’s easy for a few too many treats and a few too few walks to begin to add some extra weight to your pup. Keep a close eye on their regular diet and exercise to ensure the health benefits of a proper German Shepherd weight.

Size 4/5

While not quite massive, German Shepherds are on the larger side of dog breeds in general. The average German Shepherd height is over 2 feet tall, and the breed is known for its agile and muscular bodies.


Easy to train 5/5

Most German Shepherds are eager to learn. Encourage your pup with positive reinforcements and you could see massive behavioral improvements in a few weeks or even days. 

Intelligence 5/5

The standard German Shepherd profile usually includes the fact that these are some of the smartest dogs around. Since they were bred as work animals, they’re capable of completing complex tasks and mastering unique commands that few other dog breeds could master.

Prey drive 4/5

Generations of selective breeding have reinforced the German Shepherd’s pray drive. Where they were once prowling the prairies for potential threats to their flock, today they may walk down the street and chase after a fleeing squirrel.

Tendency to Bark/Howl 4/5

German Shepherds are quick to vocalize—not just that, but they have one of the loudest barks on the block. Barking is a natural instinct for them, but with proper training, they can learn to bark only at threats or problems instead of every passing car, squirrel, and gust of wind.

Wanderlust potential 2/5

Home is where the heart is and in your German Shepherd’s case, their heart is with you. That means it’s uncommon for an adult German Shepherd to leave their master’s side for long. You should expect your pooch to stay put and have little interest in exploring the great outdoors without you.

Physical Needs

Energy level 5/5

Put simply, German Shepherds never stop. They were bred for high endurance activity and long hours so keeping up with them is pretty much a full-time job. 

Intensity 5/5

You can expect to be just as exhausted as your pet after playtime. German Shepherds give 100 percent every time, which means spending the afternoon with your precious pooch can be a full-body workout depending on your play style of choice.

Exercise needs 5/5

German Shepherds are seriously physical pets. That means plenty of daily exercise is required to keep them in good health and high spirits. While walks are certainly appreciated, running, swimming, and hiking may be what your dog prefers. 

Playfulness 5/5

All work and no play? Not so fast. Just because German Shepherds were bred to help with livestock doesn’t mean they’re not eager for a game of fetch or tug of war. Embrace their playful nature by introducing new games to play together.

Mental stimulation 5/5

Because of their high capacity for complex tasks, German Shepherds require regular mental stimulation to feel confident and purposeful. Offer up new ways to challenge your pooch mentally so they don’t get bored.

More About German Shepherd

From the open prairies to the open floor plan of your apartment, German Shepherds are a beloved breed, treasured for their athleticism and intelligence. Don’t be fooled by their hardworking history; these pups have a playful spark matched by few other dogs. German Shepherds have made a serious mark on the world, with stars on Hollywood Boulevard and write-ups in scientific journals, and they continue to find their way into hearts and homes across the country.

For those looking to live a highly active life, German Shepherds make natural companions. Additionally, these dogs are intelligent and sensitive enough to play the role of a beloved family pet, show dog, and best four-legged friend.

As guard dogs, you can expect your German Shepherd to let you know when anyone is near with a hearty bark. More often than not, a German Shepherd is eager to meet a new friend, so long as they don’t upset their sensitive temperament. Perhaps most notably, German Shepherds are attached at the hip to their owners, following them from room to room and always looking to stay close. There’s always more to learn when it comes to living with a German Shepherd, but these multifaceted dogs are as rewarding as they are complex.

German Shepherd History

Unsurprisingly, this breed’s origins can be traced to Germany. Near the end of the 19th century, German Shepherds were used frequently by farmers to herd and protect their livestock. Throughout Germany, these dogs were celebrated workers, though they hadn’t yet earned a proper place as loving companions.

As their reputation grew, so did their popularity. The keen sense of smell, intelligence, and agility associated with German Shepherds led to a country-wide appreciation for the breed by the early 20th century. Simultaneously, the first German Shepherds were transported to America for a new population to appreciate.

In 1907, the first German Shepherd was exhibited in America, and 6 years later, The German Shepherd Dog Club of America was founded. By the beginning of World War II, this breed was working with military personnel on the front lines, and by the end of the war, these dogs became increasingly associated with emergency workers and public service. Besides looking the part, German Shepherds have done a lot to earn their loyal and courageous reputations. Much of German Shepherd history is about how these dogs have helped us through the challenges we’ve faced—what else can we expect from man’s best friend? 

German Shepherd Facts

  • It’s easy to trace the German Shepherd’s exact origins. The dog breeder Max von Stephanitz named and defined the breed at the turn of the 20th century.
  • There are five types of German Shepherds, including the Saddle Back German Shepherd, Black German Shepherd, and White German Shepherd.
  • German Shepherds learned to parachute in WW2.
  • German Shepherds can run faster than any human on Earth at about 30 miles per hour.
  • While most people in the US refer to them as German Shepherds, this breed has also been known as the Alsatian Wolf Dog.
  • Two different 1920s doggy stars have their paw prints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

What You Need to Know as a German Shepherd Owner

There’s no reason to feel unprepared when adopting and trying to understand German Shepherd behavior. Read on to learn about essential German Shepherd breed info, so you can put your skills to use when caring for your next pup.   

German Shepherd Health & Preventative Care

German Shepherds have a predisposition for developing bloat, a condition caused by foam or air in the chest cavity. This build-up can have fatal effects on your pup, so be certain to watch for the early signs of bloat, like retching and swelling in the chest area. Additionally, heavy work can lead to joint pain for your pup so avoid strenuous work until your canine is fully grown.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:

  • Up-to-date X-rays
  • Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency (CLAD)
  • Hyperuricosuria (HUU)

German Shepherd Temperament & Emotional Wellness

German Shepherds are at their happiest when given purpose. Directed play, challenging tasks, and intense exercise can be incredibly fulfilling for this breed. On the other hand, significant time alone can lead to nervousness and serious anxiety.

German Shepherd Environmental

Due to their insulated coat, German Shepherds are equipped for chillier climates, though they’re often equally comfortable in warm weather. Their general flexibility also extends to their home environment, as German Shepherds can make the most of a smaller house or apartment if given proper care.

German Shepherd Exercise & Play

A quick stroll around the block isn’t going to cut it for a German Shepherd. Their ideal day involves at least 2 full hours of rigorous exercise, making them one of the most active dog breeds around. Additionally, German Shepherds appreciate a bit of variety, so try to change up activities and locations as frequently as possible. Your pup will appreciate the extra effort to keep playtime fun.

German Shepherds Behavior & Training

Obedience is one of the words most often associated with German Shepherds, with good reason. You can expect your German Shepherd to obey your commands and take to behavioral training naturally. So long as you back up your training with proper reinforcements—like their favorite tasty treats—you’ll quickly see the results of your efforts.

German Shepherd Nutrition

To lead an active life, German Shepherds need plenty of protein, fat, and calories to provide ample energy. Your German Shepherd might appreciate a low-grain diet, with plenty of premium meat and even probiotics to benefit their gastro-intestinal health. If you’re looking to expand on the standard doggy diet, you should consult with your vet to ensure any supplementary food is beneficial for your pup.

Learn How to Properly Care for Your German Shepherd & Get Nutrition Information from AskVet’s Professional Veterinarians.

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Signs of Diabetes in Dogs

diabetes in dogs

Written by: Alexa Waltz

Signs of Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes is a hot topic in human andanimal health. Most people have some understanding of this serious condition because a family member, friend, acquaintance, or maybe even a family pet is living with diabetes.

Are you suspecting that your pup may have diabetes, or just want to learn more about your dog’s recent diagnosis? Keep reading for a discussion of what diabetes in dogs is all about.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is an endocrine disease that can affect dogs and involves a peculiar little organ called the pancreas. The pancreas lives in the abdomen and is tucked up near the stomach and intestines. A healthy pancreas is essential to digestion and glucose metabolism in the body.

You may recall that glucose is what the body uses for energy in all of its organs. Problems start to occur if the amount of glucose in the bloodstream is too high or too low. You may also hear glucose referred to as “blood sugar.”

Glucose is present in foods that we eat and is the predominant energy source for the brain, muscles, nerves, and all organs. Think of glucose as the best fuel that our cells use to perform ALL their functions! The process of how glucose is digested, stored, released, and absorbed is complicated, but understanding how glucose works is key to understanding diabetes.

How Does the Pancreas Regulate Glucose?

The pancreas plays an essential role in making sure glucose levels in the body are optimal and safe to keep everything working in tip-top shape. Let’s really get into the science of digestion and how important glucose is in the body.

During digestion, foods are broken down by the stomach and intestines into tiny molecules of glucose, fat, water, vitamins, minerals, and proteins. These molecules are tiny enough to be absorbed across the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream, where they circulate around the body, waiting to be used by cells or stored for later within the organs. The body needs and uses all types of different molecules to carry out the functions of our vital organs in order to sustain life.

After digesting a meal, you can imagine that the glucose level circulating around in the blood increases, looking to either be used by the body or stored away for later. The pancreas has specialized “beta cells” that detect glucose levels in the bloodstream. When the glucose level in the bloodstream is too high, the beta cells secrete a hormone called insulin.

What Does Insulin Do?

Insulin is released into the bloodstream and attaches to the surface of cells, allowing glucose to enter into the cell and be used as energy. Once inside, glucose powers all of the cellular processes. Brain cells have the highest energy demand in the body and NEED glucose to function, same with kidney cells, skin cells, and muscle cells … ALL of your body’s cells need glucose inside of them to function.

In short, insulin can be thought of as the key that opens a cell’s door to the essential energy source called glucose. Without insulin, glucose flows through the bloodstream, unused. Meanwhile, the cells are deprived of fuel and have to find alternative and less effective energy sources to keep carrying on with life itself.

How Diabetes Functions

Damage to the beta cells of the pancreas means that the ability to detect glucose levels and secrete insulin is impaired. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream but all of the cells and organs in the body begin to starve. This is exactly what happens in patients with diabetes.

There may be plenty of glucose available in the bloodstream, but it is not accessible to the cells because it can’t get inside of them. In this state of glucose starvation, the body desperately looks for another energy source, which is fat.

Fat is much less efficient as a fuel for the body, and, unfortunately, byproducts of fat breakdown called “ketones” build up in the bloodstream. Ketones are very harmful in that they lower the blood pH, becoming more acidic.

Diabetes most often affects middle-aged to older dogs, and some breeds have a higher incidence of occurrence. The commonly affected breeds are Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Dachshunds, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Pomeranians, Terriers, Keeshonds, Miniature Schnauzers, Samoyeds, Poodles, and Labrador Retrievers.

What Is Type I Diabetes?

The above process is referred to as “Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” (aka “Type I” or “juvenile diabetes” in humans) and is the most common type of diabetes in dogs. Scientists aren’t quite sure yet about what destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, but immune-mediated causes, recurrent pancreatitis, Cushing’s disease, and genetics are the likely culprits.

What Is Type II Diabetes?

Type II diabetes or “non-insulin-dependent diabetes” is also a chronic condition. It occurs either when a pancreas stops producing enough insulin or the body doesn’t respond well to insulin (insulin resistance) In the latter case, the liver, fat, and muscles struggle to pull the glucose from the blood. Dogs rarely get Type II diabetes; it’s seen more commonly in cats.


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What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs?

While we certainly would love diabetes to be eradicated for every person and animal, it sadly will continue to be diagnosed in humans and animals alike. Detection and diagnosis is the only way for treatment to occur, so it is important to learn the clinical signs of diabetes so treatment can be started and your pup is back to living their wag-filled, happy life.

Increased Thirst and Urination

Increased thirst and urination are by far the most common symptoms noticed by pet parents preceding their dog’s diagnosis of canine diabetes. Your dog can start to experience excessive thirst (polydipsia) that causes them to drain their water bowl daily in record time.

Look for extra water sources around the house, like the toilet or puddles outside. Urine accidents in the house may be noticed, too, simply due to the increased volume of urine present and the urgency to potty (polyuria). Pet parents also may note an increased appetite, weight loss, and decreased muscle mass alongside the thirst and urination.

This loss in muscle mass, or a more “bony” appearance, is because of the body breaking down fat stores in order to maintain energy delivery to the cells in the absence of glucose.

Why Do Dogs Drink and Pee So Much With Diabetes?

In a healthy dog, the kidneys ensure that there is no glucose present in the urine. With diabetes, there is such a high level of glucose in the blood (4-5 times normal!) that it overwhelms normal kidney functions, and some of that extra glucose ends up in the urine.

That glucose will also drag with it quite a bit of fluid due to the osmotic gradient (fluid will naturally follow that dissolved glucose into the urine). This great fluid loss is what creates that huge volume of urine and, at the same time, makes your dog so dehydrated that their brain is begging them to drink more and more and more to compensate!

What Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

Some dogs that experience extremely high blood glucose levels and an absence of insulin for an extended period may have a dangerous complication called Diabetic Ketoacidosis. This most commonly happens with patients who are pre-diagnosis, meaning they are not known to be diabetic yet. It can also happen in diabetic dogs that are not well-regulated with external insulin sources.

As mentioned earlier, that lack of insulin and the starvation of cells for energy will cause fat burning and the production of ketone bodies as a metabolic byproduct. Ketones are acidic, lower the pH of the blood, cause electrolyte imbalances, and disrupt cell functions — all very, very dangerous for overall body health.

These dogs will get very sick, stop eating and drinking, may vomit, may be panting or breathing abnormally deep, have low energy, and may have trouble walking and responding. It is extremely important that these dogs receive emergency care immediately, as this condition is life-threatening.

How Is Diabetes Diagnosed in Dogs?

Diabetes is usually a pretty straightforward diagnosis in dogs. A quick blood and urine test at your veterinary clinic should be able to indicate the presence of diabetes. The blood test will show hyperglycemia, aka increased blood glucose. Normal blood glucose levels for dogs are about 80-120 mg/dL, but diabetic dogs can be in the 500-600+ mg/dL range!

The urine test also will show glucosuria, aka glucose present in the urine. Normally, the kidney ensures there is no glucose in the urine, but when the circulating blood levels are above approximately 200 mg/dL, the kidneys will be overwhelmed, and glucose will spill into the urine as described above.

It is also very important to perform a urine culture looking for bacterial growth from a urine sample. Bladder infections are very common in diabetic dogs since glucose is present in their urine (and bacteria use glucose for energy, too!). Sometimes it is easy to miss a bladder infection on the urinalysis test alone since the urine is so dilute and the bacteria are spread so far apart, but the urine culture is a more sensitive test to check for the presence of bacteria.

Occasionally, the results of blood and urine testing are not convincing enough, and the numbers appear “borderline.” A special blood test called fructosamine can be sent to a lab to gather more info. This test is similar to the human “A1C” test and will indicate the average glucose levels present in the bloodstream over the previous few weeks. An elevated fructosamine can indicate the glucose has been elevated over a longer period of time.

Although diabetes is a serious diagnosis, your dog can still maintain their quality of life with careful monitoring and continued treatment.

How To Help Manage Your Dog’s Diabetes

Once diabetes has been confirmed in your pup, the adventure begins. Luckily, diabetes is very manageable in dogs, but it does take a devoted pet parent and close adherence to the plan you create with your vet. Luckily, we have many effective ways to manage and treat diabetes in dogs that result in your pup living their best life despite their diagnosis!

Insulin Treatment

The first step in treating your dog’s diabetes is to get their glucose under control with insulin therapy. Insulin helps to regulate blood sugar levels and keep your dog’s system from having too much sugar in the blood.

Under the guidance of your dog’s veterinarian, it may take several checkups to get the insulin levels just right, but your veterinarian will be focused on getting the perfect dosage for your dog.

Your veterinarian will also likely instruct you on methods of home monitoring, like a urine glucose test, to help monitor sugar and ketones while undergoing insulin treatment.

There are fast-acting and longer-acting insulin on the market, but dogs are typically prescribed a faster-acting insulin. Of course, this will be up to your veterinarian and which insulin type they believe will suit your dog the best. There are insulins marketed especially for pets, like Vetsulin and Humulin.

Usually, insulin is administered twice a day, every 12 hours, and after your dog eats. It is especially important to have a consistent routine for meal times and administering insulin. If meal times are drastically moved around, it can affect your dog’s blood sugar. It is also recommended to administer insulation after your dog eats because too much insulin can be harmful if it does not have any sugars to interact with.

An unbalanced or irregular diet could lead to hypoglycemia: dangerously low blood sugar levels. This is an emergency situation and requires an urgent visit to your DVM.

Insulin Administration

One of the key tasks that you’ll learn to help care for your diabetic dog is how to administer their insulin. Your veterinarian or the veterinary techs will teach you how to do this. It is totally normal to feel scared about doing this, but with practice and patience, you will become a pro at administering your dog’s daily insulin injections.

You’ll be instructed on how to fill the syringe with the proper insulin dose. Next, you’ll need to determine where the injection site will be. These injections are given just under the skin, and dogs typically respond well when the location is hear the shoulder blades or hip bones. Your veterinarian will instruct you to rotate the locations so that your dog doesn’t feel too sore from the same spot being used over and over again.

Once you have the location selected, you’ll pinch your dog’s skin and will insert the needle into the center of where your dog’s skin is folded. Gently push the plunger on the syringe down until all the insulin has been injected.

In the beginning, it may be smart to have a second pair of hands available to help. This helper can distract your dog with their favorite toy or a yummy piece of their favorite treat. Be sure to praise your dog after they receive their insulin injection. Pretty soon, it will become a regular part of your daily routine that you won’t think twice about.

Monitoring Diet

Along with insulin therapy, monitoring your dog’s diet is crucial to maintaining your dog’s glucose levels at a healthy threshold. What you give to your dog to eat as well as when you give it is important and must be carefully monitored.

When it comes to your dog’s diet, high fiber is recommended. Fiber helps your dog feel full but is lower in calories when compared to an equivalent amount of protein or carbohydrates. A low-fat diet is also recommended, as many dogs with diabetes may also experience health problems like heart issues or pancreatitis.

A low-fat diet is also helpful if your dog is overweight. Obesity can exacerbate diabetic symptoms, and slowly helping your dog lose some extra fluff can help you get a better handle on controlling their diabetes.

It can be tricky to ensure your dog receives the right amount of nutrients. Consult with your veterinarian or nutritionist to ensure that your pup gets all the necessary vitamins. There are several diabetic dog foods on the market, and one of them may be the perfect fit for your dog. Remember that treats need to be accounted for in your dog’s daily diet as well!

Consistent mealtimes are important, as your dog will need their insulin administered equal hours apart. Keeping a consistent schedule helps keep your dog’s glucose levels at a constant rate throughout the day.

Once you find the perfect food and insulin dosage for your dog, they will likely be back to feeling themselves again. Consistency is of utmost importance when it comes to a diabetic pet. It may be tempting to want to change their food, especially after eating the same thing day after day. Before making any changes, consult with your veterinarian to ensure that any changes are done slowly with careful monitoring.

Continued Monitoring with AskVet

Since diabetes is a lifelong condition, you’ll likely have plenty of questions about your dog’s diagnosis and continued treatment in between veterinarian visits. You may think to yourself that it would be so nice to have a resource where you can ask all your diabetes-related questions but not keep your veterinarian’s phone ringing off the hook. Enter AskVet!

For questions and further discussion on diabetes in dogs, your AskVet veterinarians are here to help! If you have any questions about your dog’s medical condition or are wondering whether your dog’s symptoms are an urgent issue, then all you have to do is AskVet. We are here 24/7 to help you and your dog!



Update on insulin treatment for dogs and cats: insulin dosing pens and more | PMC

Diabetes in Pets | American Veterinary Medical Association

Diabetes | MU Veterinary Health Center


Written by:

Alexa Waltz, DVM

Dr. Waltz was raised near the beaches of Southern California but has spent her adult life living all over the beautiful United States while serving in the military and as a military spouse. She left California for the first time to pursue a career as a veterinarian at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. She was accepted into the US Army Health Professionals Scholarship Program during vet school and upon graduation spent her military years as a veterinarian in San Diego working for the US Marine Corps and US Navy Military Working Dog programs as well as caring for pets of service members. After her military service, she became a civilian veterinarian and continued as a small animal general practitioner at clinics in California, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Maryland. Dr Waltz loves to see her “in person” patients just as much as communicating with and assisting pet parents virtually on AskVet. Dr Waltz is also a Mom to 3 humans, 2 guinea pigs, and 1 Australian Shepherd and in her spare time she loves traveling, adventures, exercising, and doing just about anything out in nature!

Chihuahuas 101: Temperament, Personality & More

Chihuahua 101

Precious pups with precocious personalities, the small-statured Chihuahua is often thought of as a sassy, bold, and excitable dog. Notably, Chihuahuas are gifted with sensitivity and affection, making them a top choice for family pets. Chihuahuas are easily recognizable by their “apple” or “deer”-shaped head, triangle ears, and large eyes, but the wide variety of fur types and coat colors make them a unique and diverse breed.

Chihuahua Average Size and Life Expectancy

  • Height: 6-10 inches
  • Weight: 4-6 pounds
  • Life Span: 12-20 years

Chihuahua Characteristics and Traits


Affectionate with family 4/5

Chihuahuas are known to form strong bonds within the family unit. While they may end up favoring one member in particular, you can trust that they’ll likely get along with everybody.

Good with other dogs 3/5

When socializing with other dogs, Chihuahuas can be a mixed bag. Some will enjoy spending time with fellow canines—especially other Chihuahuas—while others will prefer to be the star of the show, and may fight for attention.

Good with children 2/5

While some Chihuahuas can maintain a calm demeanor even in the face of screaming children, many will find that environment inherently stressful and may lash out in fear. Chihuahuas are best paired with children who know the limits of these sensitive dogs and can behave accordingly.

Good with strangers 3/5

Typically, Chihuahuas will want to get to know you before they’re willing to cozy up. That said, you may meet some that are easy-going from the first sniff. The Chihuahua personality can be multi-faceted and greatly ranges from one dog to another.

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Adapts well to apartment living 5/5

It’s not just their small stature that makes Chihuahuas the perfect city dogs. They’re more than happy in smaller spaces whether it’s a one-bedroom apartment or traveling in a purse. The Chihuahua temperament is highly adaptable and well-suited to metropolitan life.

Good for novice owners 4/5

For first-time dog owners looking for a low-maintenance pup, a Chihuahua is a natural choice. They can exercise inside, take up little space, and travel well. Plus, you won’t have to worry about cleaning up massive messes when it comes to these tiny pups.

Sensitivity level 5/5

Loud and chaotic spaces can set off a Chihuahua’s natural sensitivities. These dogs require a calm setting or else they might experience puppy anxiety. While Chihuahuas enjoy some socializing and will express affection, they’d be more aligned with small soirees than raging parties.

Tolerates being alone 1/5

Where some dogs might enjoy a little alone time, Chihuahuas are always eager to see their owners. Leaving them alone for an extended period can bring unnecessary stress into their lives. Luckily, they’re the perfect pet to take on the go.

Tolerates cold weather 1/5

Because of their small size and low body fat, Chihuahuas are not built for extreme cold. If you’re looking to walk your Chihuahua through the winter streets, they’re going to need warm clothes and possibly some doggie boots. But is there anything cuter?

Tolerates hot weather 4/5

With origins in the warm climate of Mexico and a relatively thin coat of fur, Chihuahuas are fairly adaptable to the heat. However, all dogs are susceptible to heatstroke and burnt paw pads at high temperatures, so be sure to offer your Chihuahua a place to cool down in the summer and prioritize hydration.

Health and Grooming Needs

Shedding level 2/5

Chihuahuas shed year-round, with higher volumes around spring and fall, though still not nearly as much as many other breeds. Even if your Chihuahua is prone to shedding, it shouldn’t create too much of a mess in your home. The average Chihuahua weight is under 6 pounds, so the amount of shed hair is often manageable.

Coat grooming frequency 2/5

Chihuahuas should be groomed anywhere from once a week to once a month, with long-haired dogs typically requiring more frequent brushing. Add in a bath every 4 to 6 weeks and they’ll be sporting a healthy, shiny coat with little effort.

Drooling level 1/5

Chihuahuas like to open their mouths, but there’s rarely much drool to speak of. These tiny canines don’t produce excess saliva unless they’re suffering from a medical issue, so if you see some serious slobber, consider a visit to the vet.

Coat type/length 3/5

From short to shaggy, Chihuahua coats range in type and length. No matter your Chihuahua’s particular hair-do, cleaning and caring for it should be fairly simple. 

General health 3/5

Chihuahuas are generally healthy pups but are also predisposed to a number of health conditions. Genetically, Chihuahuas are susceptible to various eye ailments including glaucoma. Because of their small mouths, many Chihuahuas have overcrowded teeth that can be hard to clean. Additionally, keep an eye out for tracheal collapse, liver problems, and hemophilia. That said, with proper preventative and emergency care, you can expect your pet to live a long, happy life—longer than many breeds.

Potential for weight gain 3/5

The Chihuahua’s small stature makes it easy for them to gain weight, though they may be able to quickly work off any excess calories with a long walk or extended playtime. They typically reach their full size at around 9 months old, so any sudden weight gain after this period is likely related to overfeeding or another health issue.

Size 1/5

Widely thought of as the smallest dog breed, Chihuahuas usually weigh less than 6 pounds and measure under 9 inches in height. If you’re looking for a micro-sized dog to call your own, a Chihuahua is a great match.


Easy to train 3/5

Chihuahuas are a relatively bright breed and can therefore adapt easily to many commands, though they can also behave stubbornly. They react well to positive affirmations, treats, and regular training sessions. With some effort, you can look forward to an obedient Chihuahua who can “sit,” “stay,” and much more.

Intelligence 4/5

Don’t let their small heads fool you. Chihuahuas are highly intelligent dogs that often possess more tenacity than much larger breeds. Engage your Chihuahua with stimulating toys and play; otherwise, you may find them causing a little mischief out of sheer boredom.

Prey drive 3/5

Chihuahuas have a moderate prey drive and aren’t usually large enough to successfully hunt most animals. However, this small but mighty breed can still unleash its fiery prey drive on toys, balls, and anything smaller than them. 

Tendency to Bark/Howl 4/5

Considered a particularly “yappy” breed and quite protective, Chihuahuas will readily bark at potential trespassers, due to separation anxiety, or simply out of boredom. 

Wanderlust potential 2/5

Chihuahuas usually know that they have a better life with you than on their own and are unlikely to make frequent escape attempts. Most are close by their owner’s side 24/7, though some will wander out of boredom or if they feel their territory is being limited.

Physical Needs

Energy level 4/5

Many Chihuahuas will be described as hyper. Despite their high-energy personalities, their small size means they’re likely to tire out fairly quickly. With regular play and exercise, your Chihuahua should maintain an even-tempered demeanor—ready for play but not overly excitable.

Intensity 2/5

Even at maximum intensity, there’s only so much a 6-pound dog can do. Chihuahuas may not know it themselves, but they are somewhat fragile and unable to play rough compared to larger breeds.

Exercise needs 1/5

Big in spirit but small in size, Chihuahuas only need about 30 minutes of exercise per day—one 30-minute walk, two shorter ones, or some at-home or backyard play. While they require exercise like any other dog, it shouldn’t be too hard to work their needs into your daily routine.

Playfulness 4/5

Chihuahuas love to play. They’re happy to fetch, jump, and even perform the occasional trick. Just be sure that they’re treated gently and reward them with some delicious treats after extended playtimes.

Mental stimulation 4/5

These bright creatures are eager for a mental challenge. Offer your pup a food puzzle or teach them a new command to keep their mind active and anxiety levels down.

More About Chihuahuas

Hailing from the largest state in Mexico, the Chihuahua is a feisty and iconic dog regarded for its small stature and oversized personality. From celebrity owners to world-famous ad campaigns, the image of the Chihuahua is linked to its plucky demeanor and unhindered spirit. Not only is the Chihuahua a favorite among dog owners across the world, but this breed’s friendly nature also means they get along well with other dogs and cats in a shared household.

With a spunky disposition and can-do attitude, Chihuahuas are frequent companions for urban dwellers on the go. Their size means easy mobility when walking, driving, or riding around the city. Chihuahuas are usually happy anywhere as long it’s with their owner, as they form tight bonds with their primary caregiver. They can be slow to warm up to strangers but Chihuahuas display a deep intelligence behind their large eyes and can pick up new commands and tricks quickly and easily.

Despite their stature, Chihuahuas are known to stand up to dogs ten times their size, and because of their gusto, supervision is recommended when introducing your Chihuahua to new dogs. They’re excellent additions to family homes, as long as the young children know to behave calmly and respectfully around them—adult supervision is always recommended with children under 10 or so. Under the right circumstances, a Chihuahua will take their rightful place at the center of your household and your heart.

Chihuahua History

Chihuahua history dates back a millennium to the ancient Toltec civilization. Most likely an ancestor of the ancient breed the Techichi, Chihuahuas share many physical similarities with this breed. Several centuries later, in the 1800s, Chihuahuas rose to prominence in Mexico for their various skills and uses—including the ability to root out vermin and pests—and were named for the region they were first found in.

By the end of the 19th century, Americans began breeding Chihuahuas as show dogs and in 1904, the first Chihuahua was registered with the American Kennel Club. Chihuahua behavior captivated American audiences throughout the early 20th century and breeding increased until Chihuahuas became one of the most common breeds in the country.

Today, after decades of companionship and showings, Chihuahuas hold 11th place out of 155 dog breeds in the American Kennel Club rankings. While Chihuahuas are now thought of mainly as loving members of the family, those in rural areas may still rely on the Chihuahua’s ratting skills to keep their farm free of vermin.

Chihuahua Facts

  • Chihuahuas have the biggest brains of any breed, relative to their body size.
  • 8 out of every 10 Chihuahuas are born with soft spots on their skulls. These spots are called molera and may disappear as the dog ages, though some may remain throughout their lifetime.
  • Chihuahuas, on average, live longer than almost any other dog breed. The oldest Chihuahua lived to the ripe old age of 20.
  • Chihuahua litters usually contain 2 to 5 puppies.
  • While they can’t necessarily guard against intruders, Chihuahuas are great alert dogs, barking at the first sign of potential dangers including fire or medical emergencies.

What You Need to Know as a Chihuahua Owner

Chihuahuas require the same loving support that all pets demand. Additionally, due to their small size, unique personalities, and particular dispositions, the standard Chihuahua profile includes several noteworthy features.

Chihuahua Health & Preventative Care

Chihuahuas, like most breeds, are genetically predisposed to certain health problems, but overall, they’re fairly healthy animals who require minimal to moderate grooming. Their small, crowded mouths make them prone to dental issues, so don’t forget to brush their teeth at home and schedule regular check-ups. Additionally, it’s important to note that Chihuahuas are more likely to be injured than to fall ill. Their fragile nature and small size mean you need to keep a close eye on your pup for potential hazards.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:

  • Cardiac Exam
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood Tests

Chihuahua Temperament & Emotional Wellness

Prominent Chihuahua breed info makes it clear that these sensitive yet tenacious dogs don’t do well on their own. Without ample time with their owner, Chihuahuas may exhibit symptoms of separation anxiety. Their sensitivities can also extend to loud noises and crowds, so do your best to create a calm environment for your Chihuahua to feel at home.

Chihuahua Environmental

Originally from the Chihuahua region of Mexico, these little dogs are always eager for a return to their tropical roots—they thrive in warmer climates and aren’t well-suited to cold weather. Chihuahua’s don’t require a lot of space to be comfy. Their biggest demand is a little peace and quiet, and a lot of snuggle time with their owner.

Chihuahua Exercise & Play

Your chihuahua will likely enjoy a leisurely stroll to the local dog park, but if you don’t have time, there are plenty of opportunities to exercise at home. 30 minutes of exercise is all they really need in a day. A quick game of fetch around the living room or backyard can be enough to keep a Chihuahua fit and active, though they might also like to take the occasional trip without being packed up in a tote bag—just be careful not to overexert them.

Chihuahua Behavior & Training

Leading Chihuahua information points to this breed’s particular intelligence. Though intellect can be a double-edged sword when training your pup, Chihuahuas are highly capable of learning commands and behaving obediently, yet they’re also willful, stubborn animals with their own agendas. Reigning in your Chihuahua while providing positive reinforcement is the best method to encourage good behavior and training practices.

Chihuahua Nutrition

A simple and consistent diet of quality dog food should be the basis of your Chihuahua’s diet. You can split between ½ and 1⅓ cups of food throughout the day for your pup’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Besides a few simple treats, there’s no need to add anything else to your dog’s diet unless recommended by a veterinarian.

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Treatment and Monitoring of Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes in dogs

Written by: Alexa Waltz

 The diagnosis of canine diabetes can be overwhelming and scary for pet parents. Daily shots? Expensive insulin? Blood glucose testing??? It sounds like a lot, but thankfully pet owners learn quickly what it takes to keep their diabetic dog healthy and happy! You’ll be relieved to know that once some of the details are ironed out, the management of diabetes in dogs can become fairly routine. It does involve a devoted and observant pet parent, as diabetes will always be a serious but manageable health condition for your dog.

The ABCs of Treating Diabetes in Dogs

Did you know that managing diabetes in humans closely resembles our approach to diabetic dogs? Since dogs typically have insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, similar to Type 1 (“juvenile”) diabetes in people, there are many crossovers! Check our other blog post to become familiar with the symptoms of diabetes in dogs . The main differences with diabetes management in people versus dogs are that we do not have to strive for perfection with blood glucose regulation as we do in people, and dogs tend to not develop the other chronic conditions associated with diabetes since people live much longer!

Just as a quick review, when an animal becomes diabetic, the pancreas is no longer able to sense glucose levels in the blood nor secrete insulin. Without insulin, the glucose floating around in the bloodstream is unable to enter and provide energy for cells in the body. Body organs begin to starve due to a lack of usable energy despite the rising glucose levels in the blood. How do you fix that? It’s simple — supply the insulin for them! 

We, as the pet parent, need to step in and take over for that damaged pancreas in order to supply the insulin needed for cells to access that glucose. We also need to monitor the glucose level for highs and lows during a given day since these fluctuations can reach some dangerous thresholds. It is a delicate balance between insulin delivery, food consumption, and exercise to maintain your dog’s glucose in a healthy range 24/7.

Insulin Therapy

Unfortunately, diabetes in dogs is a lifelong disease. Researchers have been studying canine diabetes for decades, and although advancements in treatments and monitoring have fine-tuned some of the clunkier points of living with diabetes, we still do not have a “cure” or a replacement for the pancreas. We are left managing our diabetic dogs with daily insulin injections, typically given twice a day at mealtime. Insulin must be delivered by injections under the skin, and there are no effective diabetes medications that can be given by mouth in our canine patients. By giving injections, the active insulin molecules can find their way into the bloodstream, circulate around the body, and do their job to maintain your dog’s health.

When a dog is initially diagnosed with diabetes, they may be very sick and require several days of hospitalization, especially if they have diabetic ketoacidosis. These dogs need some close monitoring, intravenous fluids (IV), special insulin, and blood glucose monitoring for some time before we can think about starting daily home care. 

However, some dogs are much more fortunate and are not as sick when they are first diagnosed. Dogs that are eating, drinking, and have a reasonable amount of energy may do just fine without hospitalization. Instead, they are healthy enough to start with a maintenance dose of insulin twice daily at home! When your dog is healthy enough to receive treatment at home, your vet will start with a standard dose of insulin that is effective for most dogs and see how it is tolerated by your buddy. Two weeks later, your vet will recheck your dog’s symptoms and consider some glucose monitoring in the clinic (see discussion later). It may take about 6 weeks before the perfect balance of insulin and glucose is reached so being patient, consistent, and observant is essential!

We are so fortunate to have several different safe and effective insulin options available for dogs! Each type of insulin has a slightly different duration of action (how long the insulin lasts) and time to effect (how quickly the insulin kicks in to lower blood sugar levels). The type of insulin that may be best for your dog is determined by financial limitations, desired ease of administration (syringe vs injection pen), and how well your dog’s body responds to it. The most common brands of insulin for dogs are Vetsulin, Novolin-N, Humulin- N, Glargine/Lantus, Detemir/Levemir, and Prozinc. Most of these options are twice-daily dosing using special insulin syringes or a convenient injection pen. Once your dog starts their twice daily insulin dosing, you may see a decrease in their original symptoms immediately, although it could take up to 6 weeks for their bodies to adjust to the insulin injections you are providing.

AskVet Tip: Need some additional coaching for giving those insulin shots or handling the insulin bottles and syringes? Luckily there are lots of accessible resources available to put your fears at ease! Before you and your dog are sent home, your vet will provide a tutorial on how to handle the insulin, syringes, and give injections. If you are overwhelmed and need more support at home, YouTube can come to the rescue! Many veterinarians have made educational videos for pet owners on how to give insulin, basics of handling and storing insulin bottles, as well as some details about blood glucose testing. Your vet staff is happy to go over things as often as you need to as well, so give them a call!

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Changing your dog’s diet to a high fiber/low carbohydrate dog food is another approach that may stabilize daily glucose levels and insulin needs. A high fiber diet will slow glucose absorption in the intestines allowing for a steadier level of glucose available over a longer period of time. Your vet may recommend prescription diets like Royal Canin Glycobalance, and Hill’s Metabolic or W/D. Even if you do not choose to change your diabetic dog’s diet, it is essential to pick a dog food and feed a consistent volume twice a day without much variation or excessive treats – both which may spike blood glucose levels. It is recommended to give insulin while your pup is eating or soon after, and consistency in the timing of injections is key!

AskVet Tip: Although you do need to keep your diabetic dog’s diet as steady as possible, it does not mean you need to sacrifice treats forever! A daily small midday snack that is less than 10% of the total daily caloric intake may be tolerated by your pup! Some healthy options include apples, carrots, green beans, sweet potato, small lean chicken and protein pieces. Be sure to discuss your dog’s diet and treats with your vet.


Another pillar of good diabetes management for dogs is keeping up with moderate and regular daily activity and maintaining your pup in an overall good body condition. Overexertion could result in very low blood glucose levels (due to the extra energy needed during exercise), so try to keep the activity level as regular as possible and monitor your dog closely on days that he has completed more activity than usual. Consult with your veterinarian for any special changes needed should an increase in exercise be desired (hikes, beach days, agility classes, etc). Along with a regular diet, consistent exercise will help keep their glucose and insulin balance steady and more predictable! 

Treat Concurrent Diseases

Since diabetes mostly affects senior dogs, there is a good chance they are experiencing some other health issues too. Through additional lab testing, your vet will check for evidence of Cushing’s disease, low thyroid, kidney disease, periodontal disease, pancreatitis, and urinary tract infections, just to be sure none of these common conditions are interfering with glucose control. The presence of several medical conditions at the same time will definitely complicate diabetes management and likely require close monitoring for all medications needed to stabilize each health condition as best as possible.

AskVet Tip: A severe health condition called “diabetic ketoacidosis” is a life-threatening condition that sometimes occurs in dogs just before they are formally diagnosed with diabetes. This condition develops due to the presence of the acidic byproducts of fat breakdown for energy due to the lack of insulin and accessible glucose. This condition will require several days of hospitalization, IV fluids and electrolyte corrections, and emergency care before they can be stabilized and started on maintenance insulin. Once they are eating, drinking, and feeling good again, they can start regular diabetes management and be sent home with you!

Monitoring Diabetes

When your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, next comes the commitment from the pet parent to closely monitor her response to insulin for the length of her life. Unlike in human diabetes control, we do not strive for perfection with dogs! We try to maintain a blood glucose within a reasonable range, and most of all try to eliminate the symptoms you were seeing when your dog was first diagnosed.

Goal #1: Reduce the Symptoms

The easiest and most reliable way to gauge the overall glucose control in your diabetic dog is observing the return of water consumption and urination to a normal level! They should also have a steady appetite, feel good, and have some energy. A well-controlled diabetic dog will gain weight and muscle mass in the weeks/months following the introduction of insulin.

AskVet Tip: A great way to monitor dogs at home is to keep a journal for urination, water consumption, appetite, insulin, and weight (when possible). This will help you detect big and little changes in your pup and provide an easy way for you and your vet to monitor how your diabetes management is going at home!

Even after your pup seems well-regulated, always be on the lookout for changes in urination and drinking habits. Changes from the norm may indicate that your pup needs an adjustment to the insulin dosage or possibly the development of another problem (such as a urinary tract infection). A recheck with your vet is appropriate if you notice any sudden increase in your diabetic dog’s thirst and urination.

Glucose Curves at the Vet Clinic

The “glucose curve” is a traditional method of blood glucose testing that your veterinarian may recommend in order to see a day-long snapshot of the response to your dog’s current dose of insulin. The glucose curve uses serial blood samples taken from your dog every two hours to see how high your dog’s glucose levels go before the insulin takes effect and starts lowering it, how low the glucose goes when responding to the dose of insulin, and how long the insulin dose works to lower blood sugar levels. Random individual “spot” glucose checks throughout the day have some value, but are not good indicators of overall glucose control. Glucose levels are always in flux depending on the time of day, the insulin activity, digestion of food, and physical activity. Fine-tuning insulin dosing is best determined by glucose monitoring and observing physical signs that your dog is showing. It is common for your vet to start your pup at one insulin dose and then increase or decrease it a few weeks later after glucose levels are measured. 

AskVet Tip: What does the actual glucose curve entail? After feeding your dog her usual morning meal and giving the usual insulin dose, you will drop her off at your vet clinic for the day. They will collect a tiny blood sample at drop-off and every two hours to measure glucose levels on a glucometer for a 8 hour period of time. The highs and lows may be within a healthy range or may call for the insulin dose to be altered. Any changes in the dose of insulin should be followed two weeks later by glucose monitoring just to recheck those highs and lows.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring Devices

More recently, veterinarians adapted the “continuous glucose monitoring” (CGM) devices from the human world to the animal! Using implantable devices like the Abbott “Freestyle Libre” and Medtronic “iPro2” gives pet parents an option to skip the glucose curve in the vet clinic and monitor glucose levels over a period of days, in the comfort of their own homes. This eliminates the labor-intensive glucose curve, decreases stress for your dog, and gives a great picture of the daily variation of glucose control in real life. Using an app and smartphone, pet parents can see real-time blood glucose levels, and share the results to be analyzed by the veterinarian.

What is the process involved for using this monitor? Typically, your vet will write a prescription for you to pick up a device at a human pharmacy at the cost of around $50-$80. Bring the device in for an appointment with your dog. Your vet will shave a small area of fur from your dog’s chest or back area and implant the sensor probe into the skin as securely as possible. The device will take glucose measurements every minute and record them into a rolling log, available to your veterinarian via the cloud. The device app enables you to scan the sensor, and both you and your vet can access glucose readings as long as the sensor is in place!  

Although this has proven as a wonderfully accurate and convenient way to measure blood glucose over a period of time there are some downfalls of the CGMs … one of these is that they are made for human skin and not haired skin! They sometimes do not stick as well or last long on animal skin due to body movements and anatomical features. Vets desire to get at least 1-2 days of readings before it falls off! This can be avoided with some glue applied to the device, dressing your dog in a  t-shirt or sweater to help the sensor stay in place, and also by keeping movement and activities controlled in the hopes that it does not dislodge prematurely! If the CGM device is a good option for your dog, your vet will likely want to use this method for checking glucose control instead of the glucose curve.

Home Glucose Testing

At-home spot checks for glucose testing can be a useful tool so it is good for pet parents to have the ability to check glucose at home! Veterinarians recommend the purchase of an Alpha-Trak2 monitor and test strips for dogs and cats, along with some small lancets (needles) and a spring-loaded device to puncture the skin for a blood sample. It is recommended to take a small blood sample at about 4 hours after the insulin dose, and again at 8 hours, to see what the lowest and highest glucose levels may reach. Also, if your dog is showing signs of hypoglycemia (see discussion below) you can use this device to decide if your dog is dangerously low and needs a snack or some sugar. At home, we do not want the glucose reading to ever go much below 100, as that could lead to hypoglycemia. If you are getting extremely low readings or high readings (400-500+) at home, a recheck with your vet is recommended.

AskVet Tip: How do you get a blood sample at home?!?!?! YouTube to the rescue! There are many videos made by veterinarians and vet techs showing how to painlessly get a nice bleb of blood and run it on your glucometer at home. Some great sites to collect blood on dogs are the ear flap, paw pad, or even on the gums inside the mouth. Use the spring-loaded lancet device and hold it flat against the skin, and press the button for a quick poke. Gently squeeze around the area and a small bleb of blood will form, perfect for the glucose strip!

Home Urine Test Strips (Ketones and Glucose)

Another at-home screening test that pet parents may want to use are urine glucose and ketone test strips. These can help owners monitor levels of glucose and ketones in the urine and may provide some information about overall diabetes control. These have some value, but since the blood glucose levels do fluctuate throughout the day it can be difficult to provide detailed information with just these test strips. The presence of ketones, or an increase in glucose detected could indicate an insulin dosing issue and should be followed up with a visit to the vet.

Routine Follow Up Care

Like we discussed earlier, taking care of your diabetic dog is a long-term commitment – both for their daily care as well as a financial commitment for treatment and follow-ups. It is important that any insulin dose change is followed by a two week recheck, and most veterinarians will also recommend general follow-up appointments every 6-12 months thereafter. At these appointments, your dog will be assessed for weight gain or loss, appetite, the control of symptoms like drinking and urinating, and some baseline blood and urine testing will be performed. A fructosamine test may be helpful too, in that it gives a sense of the average blood glucose over the previous couple of weeks. Urine cultures (growing bacteria from a urine sample) are also an important aspect of monitoring diabetics … bacteria love to grow in urine with glucose present! It is also important to keep teeth clean as well as monitor vision for the formation of diabetic cataracts within the lenses.

Complications of Diabetes in Dogs

Unfortunately, even the most excellent glucose control and insulin dosing does not guarantee that your dog will be free of complications nor struggle with their diabetes from time to time. Always keep an eye on their appetite, urine habits, water consumption, mood, and activity level for subtle changes needing to be checked out. Any diabetic dog that is vomiting, not eating or having diarrhea should be more urgently seen by their vet. Insulin dosing is highly dependent on food intake and digestion! For insulin-dependent dogs, efforts to remedy health issues should be taken as soon as possible, so call your vet right away.

The following are some common medical conditions related to diabetes:

– Hypoglycemia, blood sugar too low You may observe your dog walking wobbly, acting depressed or tired, vomiting, not responding to you like normal, or they may have a seizure if their blood sugar falls too low (usually due to lack of eating or the insulin dose being too high). This is an emergency! Immediately apply honey, karo corn syrup, maple syrup, or sugar water on their gums (do not make them drink anything as they may not be able to swallow). Seek veterinary care immediately.

– Cataracts The lens is located inside the eyeball and high glucose levels will cause cataracts to form and your dog’s vision to be impaired. This can be very painful and will need some treatment and monitoring as well.

– Urinary Tract Infections Bacteria love to grow in urine with glucose in it! Urinary tract infections are uncomfortable and can also lead to bladder stone formation. Routine urine tests and cultures are recommended to be sure to avoid these issues.

– Polyneuropathy Some diabetic dogs may develop weakness and difficulty walking

– Kidney Failure Prolonged hyperglycemia (high glucose in the blood) can damage the fragile nephrons in the kidney leading to chronic kidney failure.

– Difficult Regulation/Hyperglycemia Some dogs are very difficult to regulate with insulin and may continue to have hyperglycemia. Changing dosing and trying different types of insulins can help some dogs find what works best for them. Dogs with multiple disease conditions will have a more difficult time regulating their glucose.

– Ketoacidosis Dogs with undiagnosed diabetes, known diabetics with poor glucose control, or ineffective insulin delivery may experience diabetic ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis occurs when the tissues are starving for glucose, but insulin is not available to facilitate getting it into cells. The body begins to break down fat as the ketone bodies can be used as an alternative fuel source. Unfortunately, over time the metabolites are harmful to the body and the dog will get very very sick. They will need immediate treatment and hospitalization with IV fluids to reverse dehydration and insulin to get glucose into the cells.


Dogs respond to diabetes and treatment in their own special way. Some are not very sick at the outset and quickly become managed with insulin and diet. Others are very sick when they are first diagnosed, and unfortunately, some are very difficult to control with insulin too. Your dog’s journey with diabetes will be her own and as her pet parent, just do your best to feed a constant diet, give insulin consistently, keep a journal for daily habits, maintain the necessary follow-up appointments, and consult with your vet when you notice anything concerning. Your dog can live a good quality and long life even with diabetes!

For questions and further discussion on diabetes in dogs, your AskVet veterinarians are here to help! If you have any questions about your dog’s medical condition or are wondering whether your dog’s symptoms are an urgent issue, then all you have to do is AskVet. We are here 24/7 to help you and your dog!


Written by:

Alexa Waltz, DVM

Dr. Waltz was raised near the beaches of Southern California but has spent her adult life living all over the beautiful United States while serving in the military and as a military spouse. She left California for the first time to pursue a career as a veterinarian at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. She was accepted into the US Army Health Professionals Scholarship Program during vet school and upon graduation spent her military years as a veterinarian in San Diego working for the US Marine Corps and US Navy Military Working Dog programs as well as caring for pets of service members. After her military service, she became a civilian veterinarian and continued as a small animal general practitioner at clinics in California, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Maryland. Dr Waltz loves to see her “in person” patients just as much as communicating with and assisting pet parents virtually on AskVet. Dr Waltz is also a Mom to 3 humans, 2 guinea pigs, and 1 Australian Shepherd and in her spare time she loves traveling, adventures, exercising, and doing just about anything out in nature!


beautiful pitbull

Strong, compact, and ready to play, Pitbulls are a friendly breed that doesn’t mind a smaller home as long as there’s plenty of affection to go around. These dogs are very adaptable and almost always interested in socializing with humans. While highly intelligent and trainable, a Pitbull dog requires a strong hand in guiding them toward good manners and healthy behavior. Perhaps most notably, they remain eager, excitable, and puppy-like throughout their lives, making them enthusiastic companions for anyone looking to live an active lifestyle.

Pitbull Average Size and Life Expectancy

  • Height: 18-21 inches
  • Weight: 30-60 pounds
  • Life Span: 12-14 years

Pitbull Characteristics and Traits


Affectionate with family 5/5

Typically, Pitbulls can’t wait to shower you and your family with affection. While they may form significant bonds with the family member who spends the most time with them, Pitbulls are widely known to be great dogs for the entire family. Plus, breed disposition doesn’t always define how your dog will react with your family, and more often than not, the bonds you build are all about personal experience. 

Good with other dogs 1/5

Dogs don’t always play nicely with their own kind, and Pitbulls are guilty of sometimes being aggressive with other dogs. They may be inclined to dominate or fear their fellow canines, but this behavior is often linked to how your dog was socialized as a puppy and whether they spent significant time with their litter or among other dogs.

Good with children 5/5

The nurturing nature of Pitbulls can make them perfect companions or guardians for young children. Where other dogs may be more sensitive or nervous with small humans, the Pitbull temperament is typically eager to entertain, show affection, and protect children. However, young children should be taught proper pet etiquette for their own safety, as well as for the overall health of the animal.

Good with strangers 5/5

Pitbulls are known to become fast friends with humans. Just be sure to keep your Pitbull leashed during the initial introductions for everyone’s comfort.

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Adapts well to apartment living 3/5

Small spaces may be overwhelming for some pups, while others won’t feel the least bit bothered. Pitbulls are typically comfortable in apartments as long as they receive the proper amount of play and exercise to keep them healthy and happy.

Good for novice owners 4/5

Pitbulls’ low-maintenance, high-energy demeanor can make them an obvious choice for first-time dog owners. While they may be a bit needy when it comes to attention, Pitbulls don’t require specialized knowledge or unique treatment. Good training, a good home, and plenty of love are all these dogs require.

Sensitivity level 4/5

Fireworks, traffic, and even large parties can be enough to set off a highly sensitive Pitbull. No one wants to watch their pooch cower in the corner, so be certain your environment isn’t too stimulating for your new pet.

Tolerates being alone 1/5

Though many of us would prefer to spend all day with our dogs, that isn’t always an option. While some breeds may be comfortable with alone time, Pitbulls can become anxious or destructive when left alone for long periods. For dogs with separation anxiety or general troubles being left alone, a dog watcher or at-home family member may be a necessity for their happiness and well-being.

Tolerates cold weather 2/5

Winter weather and snow can pose a serious problem for Pitbulls with short coats and low body fat. Fortunately, there are always doggy sweaters, coats, and vests for walks during the winter months.

Tolerates hot weather 3/5

The Pitbull’s short nose can make the warmer months a little more difficult for them compared to other dogs. All owners should be vigilant for heatstroke during the hotter months, but those with extra sensitive dogs like Pitbulls may have to keep their pups inside during summer scorchers.

Health and Grooming Needs

Shedding level 4/5

For the allergy-prone owner, shedding can present an obstacle for enjoying time with Pitbulls—some may shed more seasonally, while others are known to shed all year. 

Coat grooming frequency 1/5

When it comes to brushing, washing, or trimming, keeping your Pitbull’s coat healthy is essential to their overall happiness. That said, they require so little maintenance that it’s easy to go the extra mile to help them feel their best.

Drooling level 1/5

All dogs are known to give out some wet kisses, but Pitbulls aren’t particularly slobbery. While you can still expect to see some drool around dinner time, you shouldn’t have to wipe up a lot of saliva anytime soon.

Coat type/length 1/5

Pitbulls sport a short, no-nonsense coat that makes bathtime quick and easy. Owners won’t have to worry about matted hair or dirt getting stuck in their coat. Your Pitbull may never even need to see a groomer unless you’re looking to give them an extra special experience.

General health 4/5

Some breeds are prone to genetic illnesses and disorders due to their heritage. Luckily, Pitbulls are not particularly susceptible to most illnesses, and with proper preventative care, they can easily live a full and healthy life.

Potential for weight gain 3/5

From eager exercisers to total couch potatoes, Pitbulls vary in their desired activity level. However, this breed is susceptible to thyroid problems, which can lead to weight gain among other symptoms. It’s important to help your dog maintain a healthy weight for their general wellness. 

Size 3/5

Neither pocket-sized nor massive, Pitbulls are in the goldilocks zone when it comes to dog size. The average Pitbull size ranges from 18 to 21 inches, but Pitbulls are often crossed with other breeds, making their size slightly unpredictable.


Easy to train 4/5

Pitbulls are quick to associate commands and behavior. That said, it will still take patience, consistency, and plenty of treats to train your pup. Even the most stubborn Pitbull will eventually start learning when given a tasty snack and plenty of encouragement.

Intelligence 4/5

High-intelligence dogs are happiest when putting their brains to work, so try to keep your Pitbull’s mind engaged with frequent interaction and stimulation. This can mean teaching them new commands, refining old ones, or playing games that put your Pitbull’s mind to the test.

Prey drive 3/5

Some breeds are natural hunters. Whether chasing game or chasing cars, Pitbulls can be easily excited. Keep a close eye out for any small animals that might cause your Pitbull to take off running and be sure to keep them safely fenced in when unsupervised.

Tendency to Bark/Howl 3/5

Pitbulls are quick to let out a bark once in a while but not typically so loud that they’ll disturb your neighbors. It’s just one reason why Pitbulls are popular in both urban and rural areas.

Wanderlust potential 4/5

Many Pitbulls jump at the chance to explore on their own—and this can mean running at the first opportunity. While we might like to imagine our dogs on an exciting adventure, it’s certainly no fun searching the neighborhood for your lost pup, so keep them on a leash or fenced in unless you’re confident that they’ll remain by your side.

Physical Needs

Energy level 4/5

Puppies are often hyperactive, but most Pitbulls keep their youthful vigor well into adulthood. If you’re looking for a dog to keep you active, a Pitbull may be a source of endless excitement. On the other hand, if you’re looking to kick back and relax with a pooch, you might find a low-energy dog to be a better match for your lifestyle.

Intensity 5/5

Closely related to a breed’s energy level is its intensity. If you’re interested in a pup that runs with all their might, gives 200 percent at playtime, and eats every meal as though it’s their last, you’re ready for a Pitbull.

Exercise needs 4/5

While most Pitbulls love a good walk, many will need frequent and intense play to feel fulfilled and engaged. Some may even be happiest when performing in dog sports or pushed to the limit alongside an active owner.

Playfulness 5/5

Where some breeds may become a little less playful as they age, Pitbulls act like perpetual puppies. If you’re looking forward to the next walk, run, or fetch with a dog, then a playful Pitbull may be exactly what you need.

Mental stimulation 4/5

Dogs aren’t just physical creatures—many require a significant mental challenge to stay content. Pitbulls crave complex toys and food puzzles to keep them actively thinking on a daily basis.

More About Pitbulls

These beloved social butterflies are perhaps best known for greeting their owners with puppy-like enthusiasm well into their golden years. Pitbulls are high-energy matched with serious intensity, so be sure you have the stamina to keep up with these majestic dogs. That said, don’t mistake your Pitbull’s enthusiasm for foolishness. This breed is known for an intellect that matches their cheerful demeanor. 

For decades, the Pitbull’s place in popular culture was contentious at best. Bred for the now-outlawed sport of dogfighting, the information surrounding these pooches is often skewed or misleading. It’s essential to remember that Pitbulls are kind, caring, and friendly dogs that enjoy meeting new people. Today, many people have moved past the initial stigma associated with Pitbulls, exhibited by a renewed interest in adopting and caring for these dogs. They are, after all, amazingly loyal companions for anyone willing to put in the time.

Despite their interest in all things human, these dogs can be a bit willful without proper training. They’re known to wander when left to their own devices, and should always be kept on a leash for everyone’s safety. The breed is also known to have a more difficult time interacting with other dogs, so it’s best to begin socializing your Pitbull as early as possible. They can easily become accustomed to their fellow canine, given the right circumstances.

From early puppyhood, it’s necessary to spend adequate time with your Pitbull to ensure they have the proper manners and social skills that will provide them with the best possible life. Pitbulls love to be out in the world, so make that they can be around dogs, cats, and people without lapsing into anger or agitation. With a plan in place for early training, you’ll likely find yourself smiling alongside your dog every single day.

Pitbull History 

Descended from the bull and terrier breeds, Pitbull history stretches back nearly 200 years in the British isles, though the dogs first started making waves in America during the late 19th century. Following the Civil War, Pitbulls were used on farms for various tasks, including cattle and sheep herding. Additionally, Pitbulls were even used as guard dogs, protecting homesteads from wild animals. 

Following their heyday as working dogs, they quickly ascended to the forefront of American culture and were prominently featured in advertisements throughout the first half of the 20th century. Because of their fearless and hardworking demeanors, the image of the Pitbull became closely associated with the military during WWI and WWII, while gaining popularity as the companion to famed figures like Helen Keller and Mark Twain.

While the Pitbull image was partially sullied during the second half of the 20th century, due to the rise of illegal and cruel dog-fighting activities, Pitbulls continue to be beloved pets for families across the county. Advocates have worked to dispel the misinformation about Pitbulls and bring these beautiful creatures to the forefront of culture once again. Today, you can see Pitbulls engaged in national competitions, acting as service dogs, or simply walking down the street with their loving owners.

Pitbull Facts

  • Pitbulls have lived in the White House—with President Woodrow Wilson and President Teddy Roosevelt.
  • Baby Pitbulls can be identified by a wrinkly forehead that they eventually grow out of.
  • Pitbulls rank 4th out of 122, according to the American Temperament Test Society, in terms of most affectionate and least aggressive dog breeds.
  • The United States Army welcomed a Pitbull into its ranks during World War I. Sargent Stubby was a world-famous dog who fought in 17 battles and received a hero’s welcome when returning home from the war.
  • Pitbulls were once called “nanny dogs” because of their calm temperament with children.
  • While Pitbulls may look intimidating due to their muscular bodies, they aren’t particularly good guard dogs, due to their friendliness with strangers.

What You Need to Know as a Pitbull Owner

As a dog owner, your pup depends on you for everything—from affection to nutrition. Additionally, there are some specific Pitbull characteristics to keep in mind when identifying the best ways to take care of your pooch. To fully understand what your Pitbull needs to have an amazing life, read on.

Pitbull Health & Preventative Care

Despite their robust health, Pitbulls are prone to a few common health issues. Be sure to keep a close eye on your pup’s teeth, as Pitbulls frequently suffer from periodontal disease that can lead to serious dental problems. With regular brushing and the occasional professional cleaning, you can fight back against plaque and tartar. Additionally, Pitbulls are genetically predisposed to developing hip dysplasia and knee problems as they age, so watch out for abnormal behavior or signs of pain like excessive scratching, vomiting, or exhaustion—these can be signs of a medical problem that requires veterinary treatment.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Pitbull Temperament & Emotional Wellness

Despite looking tough, the average Pitbull is a bit of a baby. That means they don’t appreciate being left alone for significant periods of time and may become distraught or destructive without frequent attention. In addition, it may be best to socialize them early with other dogs to make walks around the block a little easier. An untrained Pitbull may be more likely to act out and misbehave around other canines.

Pitbull Environmental

Pitbulls aren’t naturally bred for hot or cold weather, so keep an eye on their comfort level when walking during more extreme temperatures. Fortunately, these highly adaptable dogs can live happily almost anywhere. Whether you’re living on a few acres in the country or confined to a one-bedroom in the city, you can always make the best of it by providing plenty of attention and affection to your Pitbull—at the end of the day, that’s what they want the most.

Pitbull Exercise & Play

Always puppies at heart, Pitbulls love a game of fetch or a round of tug of war at any time of day. When it comes to Pitbull breed info, play and exercise are frequently at the top of the list. High-intensity play is a key component of the Pitbull profile, so look forward to going all out when you initiate your regular playtime. You shouldn’t have to worry about over exhausting your Pitbull—you’re more likely to get tired first—but make sure your frequent playtime is balanced with plenty of snuggles. 

Pitbull Behavior & Training

Of all the Pitbull facts, their overall behavior as a breed is the most frequently misinterpreted. These dogs are sensitive and smart, meaning they can easily pick up complex commands through positive reinforcement and frequent training sessions. Pitbulls deeply desire to please their owners but can be easily distracted by outside stimuli—like a squirrel in a tree or a dog across the street. That’s why diligence and firmness are required during early Pitbull training.

Pitbull Nutrition

Typically, as your Pitbull reaches adulthood and old age, you can lower their overall calorie intake while continuing to keep nutrient levels high. Protein should make up about 18-22% of their total calorie intake. In addition to standard dog food, feel free to include raw meat, treats, and dog-approved vegetables in your Pitbull’s diet. However, avoid overfeeding your Pitbull by keeping a close eye on supplementary foods. Check with your vet if you have any questions about food safety or ingredients.

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