Urine problems in diabetic pets

OK, you’re doing great with your diabetic pet. Insulin shots are a piece of cake. You’re doing glucose curves or having fructosamine checked. (here’s the article that covers those). Why does your vet keep wanting a urine sample?

Diabetic dogs and cats are very prone to developing urinary tract infections, or UTI’s. Even if your pet’s insulin dose is ideal, there will be times of high blood sugar right around when they are due for their next shot. It’s just how it goes. So it’s very common to have sugar in the urine of any diabetic animal, well-managed or not!

This sugar makes great food for bacteria. The bladder is basically a petri dish, waiting for bacteria to come in and thrive. Obviously, female dogs are more susceptible, given their anatomy. For male dogs, it’s a long and winding road from the outside world to the bladder, but some bacteria make the voyage!

Checking a urinalysis routinely is a great idea. We can detect bladder infections this way, as well as check for ketones. However, urinalyses are not always reliable, particularly if the urine is very watery (from the pet drinking a LOT of water).

Photo courtesy of petfinder.com

Photo courtesy of petfinder.com

Worse news – a bladder infection / UTI can actually cause an animal to be insulin resistant! So if you’re giving insulin, feeding the right food, yet the water consumption has not got down at all, there could be a UTI lurking in there!

The best test to rule out an infection is a urine culture. This involves collecting the urine in a sterile fashion (can’t use the sample sucked off the floor this time!). We send it to the lab and they put the urine on a petri dish, then wait to see what grows. Even better, once they grow the bacteria, they can tell us which antibiotic will work, and which ones the bacteria is resistant to. No sense in giving an antibiotic that the bacteria in the bladder is just going to laugh at, right? Once we know which antibiotic kills the bacteria, your veterinarian will likely want to treat your pet for longer than an “uncomplicated” UTI, so prepare for 2-3 weeks of medication.

Also, monitor your dog or cat for any new symptoms, such as trying to urinate more frequently, accidents in the house, or licking “down there.” This could indicate a bladder infection, so mention it to your vet!

Diabetes is complicated! Check out the rest of the series:

Check out our podcast episode about diabetes. In an hour, we couldn’t even cover every detail, but you’ll learn and laugh with us along the way!


Posted in Diabetes, Internal Medicine.


  1. Very helpful, thank you. Dog (13 yr old early Oct) started insulin a week ago and i spent today reading online for “the rest of the story.” I laughed at your mention of sucking urine off floor with syringe bc that’s exactly how dog’s first urine test sample was obtained: 30 sec after removing diaper belly band for dry car travel to vet, he peed onto floor.

    He’s just under 12# Chi and started at 3U Vetsulin. Went to 5U (after gradual increases) with his noon dose today but he’s still guzzling H2o and peeing like mad. I don’t know how I can possibly cope with weeks or months of this until he stabilizes as I’m disabled and my 88 yr old mom’s caregiver too. Thoughts?

    • Talk to your vet. He might be resistant to that type of insulin (bladder infections can do that), might need a diet change, or maybe an insulin change. And some dogs just regulate faster than others!

      • Thanks again, and for your prompt reply. I did notify my vet by email today and heard back to stay the course for now… He’s optimistic I’ll hit the magic dose soon.

        I def wonder about the Vetsulin now that I’ve read more, and I already know my vet is open to the others. My little guy has always been slow to react to even OTC meds such as calming products and it takes the dose of a much much larger dog to have any impact.

        Speaking of such: do dogs tend to be more antsy when their blood sugar is high? Mine has always been hyper-reactive – – we say he barks at the grass growing – – and was once on Prozac in fact. Storms, OMG. He can resist even multiple drugs. But he seems extra antsy and agitated since his excessive thirst and urination got noticeable. I can understand if that’s the case but haven’t read anything about it and forgot to ask my vet today.

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