Weight Loss and Excessive Thirst: Chewie’s Diabetes Diagnosis

Do you know the potential reasons your dog might be losing weight without trying? What if they also become very thirsty at the same time?

Four things about your dog’s symptoms that can make your life easier is the realization that:

  1. individual symptoms are mostly ambiguous and can have many different causes
  2. symptoms are not islands—where there is one, look for more
  3. consider specific circumstances; your dogs breed, age, and overall health
  4. gathering and consolidating all available information helps to narrow down the possibilities

Further reading: Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: The Big Picture

Weight loss and excessive thirst break-down

Potential issues that can lead to unexplained weight loss include:
  • poor diet
  • anorexia
  • stress
  • intestinal parasites
  • GI disease
  • dental disease
  • diabetes
  • Addison’s disease
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • heart disease
  • cancer

Further reading: Unexplained Weight Loss in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Losing Weight?

Health conditions which can be behind excessive thirst include:
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Cushing’s Syndrome
  • Addison’s disease
  • liver or kidney disease
  • uterine infection
  • hyperthermia
  • and other serious conditions

Further reading: Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Drinking (Polydipsia)

Health conditions over-represented in Yorkshire Terriers include:
  • eye problems
  • liver issues (portosystemic shunt)
  • heart disease
  • IVDD
  • bladder and kidney stones
  • diabetes
  • allergies
  • bleeding disorders
  • tracheal collapse
  • low blood sugar
  • HGE

Further information: Yorkshire Terrier Breed Information

Where do they overlap?

Weight Loss and Excessive Thirst: Chewie's Diabetes Diagnosis

Chewie’s story

Chewie was a five-year-old Yorkshire Terrier. Chewie was a faithful companion and a source of joy and love to his mom. She was a tiny girl already, but then she started losing weight on top of that. Gradual weight loss takes a while to notice, but it became quite clear that Chewie was getting skinnier.

Then his mom noticed that Chewie also became unusually thirsty. After a few days of Chewie drinking much more than was normal for him. His mom researched the symptoms and learned that Chewie might be suffering from diabetes.

Veterinary visit

Concerned, Chewie’s mom made an appointment with their veterinarian. The diagnosis was straightforward. When the veterinarian analyzed Chewie’s blood, his blood sugar was nearly ten times what it should be. Chewie was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus—abnormally high blood glucose.

The problem can stem from the pancreas unable to produce sufficient insulin levels, or the insulin becomes ineffective in moving sugar from the blood where it ought to go.

Further reading: The Function of Insulin: What Does the Hormone Do In The Dog’s Body?

The treatment

Diabetes treatment is relatively simple, but it can be demanding and tricky. Chewie needed to get two insulin injections every day for the rest of his life. Further, it is essential that the glucose levels don’t drop too low, which would cause the opposite problem—hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a condition in which blood sugar drops too low and it is a potentially life-threatening situation.

It is crucial to work out the proper amount of insulin and ensure that even the correct dose doesn’t draw out too much glucose. For example, if you give the injections before the meal, but then your dog doesn’t eat, their glucose could drop too low.

Chewie started on gradually increasing insulin levels while getting regular blood tests to determine what was the ideal amount for her. Successfully managing a diabetic dog can be quite finicky.

An example glitch

One time, when his mom was injecting Chewie, she felt that she might have empty the syringe into Chewie’s fur rather than under his skin. Afraid that Chewie’s glucose levels could get too high, she gave him another injection.

That, unfortunately, caused hypoglycemia in Chewie. he started staggering and unable to stand up and hold his weight. Realizing what happened, his mom quickly dripped some honey on Chewie’s gums and became well again. His mom learned that it is safer to give too little than too much.

Source story:
Chewie, the Five-year-old Yorkshire Terrier

Related articles:
Unexplained Weight Loss in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Losing Weight?

Further reading:
Abnormal Weight Loss in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsDiabetesDog health advocacyExcessive thirstReal-life StoriesSymptomsUnexplained weight loss

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

7 Comments
  1. My vet told me not to give Layla any fruits or veggies with sugar because she is aging and Diabetes could become a problem. I monitor her all the time and thank goodness all is good here. I am so happy Chewie went to the vet and they found it out before it was too late.

  2. I’m glad that Chewie got a diagnosis and is healthy again! Since my dogs share a water bowl, I have to really pay attention to see if someone is drinking more or less than normal.

  3. I think you’ve landed on a REALLY important point that all dog owners should try to be aware of – the conditions that are typically overrepresented in their dog’s breed(s). That can give us an important heads up as to what we may have to face moving forward. For example, with Dav girl being a German Shepherd mix, we always knew that we needed to watch her hips as well as pay attention to any potential signs of bloat. Doing so, I believe, has helped us to keep her safe.
    I’ve never had to help diagnose or care for a dog with diabetes, however, I can imagine that those signs would go unnoticed in many cases, especially early on. Thank you for raising awareness and helping us all learn how to read the signs in our dogs better.

  4. Chewie looks a sweetheart, so I am not surprised his family want to do their best to ensure he has a healthy and happy life even with diabetes. I am guessing that experience and careful monitoring will be the biggest help for any pet parent?

    I know that in cats thirst is seen as an indicator of kidney disease, but I had not thought that diabetes could also be a cause.

  5. Chewie looks a sweetheart, so I am not surprised his family want to do their best to ensure he has a healthy and happy life even with diabetes. I am guessing that experience and careful monitoring will be the biggest help for any pet parent?

    I know that in cats thirst is seen as an indicator of kidney disease, but I had not thought that diabetes could also be a cause.

  6. Chewie is an absolute cutie – with a built in blerp! I’m glad that his mom noticed his weight loss. That’s really key to a dog’s health. We had a situation once where we lived in snow country and one of our dogs already had a difficult time maintaining her weight, so was always cold. We kept her in a fleece shirt – and you guessed it – that hid her weight loss. So, your post is right on – always monitor your dog for symptoms, and make it an intentional check too!

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