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Is Diabetes Common in Labrador Retrievers?


Diabetes is one of the most dangerous self-treating conditions a person can suffer from. When your Labrador contracts the disease, they are susceptible to the same risks as humans. Unfortunately, they cannot self-manage treatment. They need the help of their owners.

Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is a condition where the body cannot effectively manage energy that is usually derived from foods. The imbalance prevents the pancreas from producing natural insulin and breaking down glucose. Sufferers can treat themselves and potentially reverse the condition if caught early. For many sufferers, this is a condition that stays with them their entire lives.

The beautiful Labrador is the rare breed that is known to have a higher rate of diabetic sufferers than other dogs. And they can fall victim to many of the complications that can result from the disease. It is important that owners of Labs have valuable information about diabetes and how this can affect their pets.

Diabetes mellitus can create major havoc on the overall health of your Lab. Without sufficient glucose, macronutrients will not break down into glucose for absorption into the body. Unutilized glucose will never leave the body, creating dangerous levels of glucose in the blood. Just some of the unhealthy results are low energy levels, malnutrition and organ failure. The worse complication is death.


Like in humans, there are some ways for Labs to contract diabetes. One of the most common contributors is genes. If diabetes runs in the family – especially if either parent has the disease – there is a greater chance the offspring will become diabetic. Ingesting certain foods are another major factor. Imbalanced and unregulated diets will up the development of diabetes and will worsen its condition. The likelihood of diabetes can also be enhanced through overproduction of cortisol hormones, viral infections, and pancreatitis.


One of the most common signs of diabetes is the sufferer is unable to quench their thirst. If your Lab is constantly drinking water, this could be a problem. Another symptom is a constant need to urinate. They will pee all the time, especially in places where they are not usually allowed to. Unfortunately, a lot of owners mistake this for incontinence or poor potty training. This can lead to not diagnosing diabetes as soon as it could have been.

You may also see your Lab – a sporting dog that loves activity – has grown lethargic throughout the day, becoming less and less physical. There may also be a sudden and unexplainable weight loss. This can happen despite a consistent diet, high liquid intake and activity, if there is any.

If you see any of these signs, especially in any combination, take your Labrador to the vet and have them checked for a proper diagnosis and treatment.


While treatments are varied, there are no cures for diabetes. There are instances where, if caught early enough, the condition has been reversed with treatment, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come back if sufferers do not manage their glucose levels. Many treatments require self-management, but a pet cannot perform the tasks. This means owners have to educate themselves in the ways and procedures of dealing with the challenges of the Lab’s condition. With proper treatment, the sufferer can have a normal lifespan.

To start, many of the diabetic treatments animals on two legs can ingest will have no impact on canines. The most common treatment for dogs is intravenous insulin shots. As there are no over-the-counter insulin treatments, the vet will have to prescribe a type of insulin and a dosage based on the Lab’s level of glucose, size, age, weight, gender and the pet’s daily insulin levels. This last factor is determined by a test developed in the 80s that can measure average blood glucose over a previous two to three month period.

What you want to do is create a consistent level of glucose levels from day to day. The most critical component for dealing with diabetes is controlling the Lab’s diet. Just as in humans, the intake of certain foods will disrupt glucose levels despite treatment with insulin. Levels will shoot up or go too low. Regular exercise can help as well.

When it comes to female dogs, if the conditions are severe, it may be advised that the Lab undergo a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy is an operation that removes all parts of the uterus. This is to prevent hormonal surges that can cause health risks throughout the dog’s systems. Hopefully, owners will have performed their due diligence so that the pet never reaches that point.

While you can never know for sure, if it’s possible, you can see if a Lab may be prone to diabetes. Ask its breeder about the parents and investigate the diet of both the Lab and its parents. If the Lab is unusually light or heavy, you may want to have his blood tested for the disease. If you know the Lab’s background and pay attention to their needs, you will have a better chance of minimizing the disease or catching it early. There is no one-shop treatment and treatments will differ. Work with the vet to ensure the most advanced care is being applied.

Before we close out, we would like to say that because a Lab is diabetic or has the propensity for diabetes doesn’t mean it does not deserve a home. Being surrounded by a loving family that’s taking care of it will be invaluable to the Lab’s mental and physical well-being.

Caring for a diabetic Labrador is going to require commitment and patience, and there will be expenses. It’s likely the condition will take an emotional toll on you. But knowing how smart and expressive these animals can be, bottom line, choosing to do what you can to keep them healthy will be extremely rewarding. We hope, should the decision have to be made, you make one that considers the love and welfare of the Labrador.

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