Diabetes Insipidus in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Life Expectancy

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson teaches you about a disorder dogs can experience, called diabetes insipidus. You'll learn its definition, causes, signs, symptoms, treatment options, as well as some prognoses.

What Is Diabetes Insipidus?

Imagine that all day and every day you have extreme thirst followed up by an urge to urinate large volumes of urine on a frequent basis. This can happen with a condition called diabetes insipidus, in both humans and dogs.

This uncommon disorder occurs when the brain either secretes an insufficient amount of a hormone called antidiuretic hormone (ADH) or the kidneys don't respond to it. ADH tells the kidneys to stop making urine and to start preserving water within the body.

Let's learn about the signs, treatments, and life expectancy surrounding this condition in dogs.

Signs & Symptoms

If the brain doesn't make enough ADH or the kidneys pay no attention to it, the kidneys will make a lot of urine and deplete the body of lots of water as a result. And what happens when you are dehydrated? You drink a lot! Thus, it should be no surprise that diabetes insipidus in the dog will lead to:

  • Polydipsia 'Poly-' means many or much and '-dipsia' refers to a condition of thirst. Thus, the dog will feel extremely thirsty and, as a result, polydipsia will also manifest itself via the consumption of large amounts of liquids over and over again.
  • Polyuria, where '-uria' refers to a condition of the urine. Polyuria manifests itself as an abnormally excessive passage of urine (volume-wise). The dog may also have to go to the bathroom more frequently as well.
  • Inappropriate urination within the home, if the dog is not walked frequently enough.
  • Disorientation, extreme lethargy and/or lack of mobility, ataxia (stumbling around as if drunk), seizures, and death can occur if a dog's source of water is withheld or the condition is caused by a brain tumor. Thus, DO NOT take away water from your dog in order to try and reduce household accidents (urination). This will not only torture your dog by way of extreme and prolonged thirst, but it will end up causing a painful death as well.


Depending on the form of diabetes insipidus in the dog, the treatment will vary. If the form of diabetes insipidus is caused by a lack of ADH production, then the dog will benefit from a medication called desmopressin acetate (DDAVP). This medication mimics ADH. Thus, it works in cases where the brain doesn't produce enough ADH, but the kidneys still respond to it. When given in such a scenario, the kidneys respond to the DDAVP by preserving water and thus making less urine. The dog will then urinate in normal amounts and thus will no longer be so thirsty.

If the form of diabetes insipidus in the dog is such that the brain is making enough ADH but the kidneys aren't responding to it, then the administration of DDAVP is unlikely to help. Instead, a diuretic (water) pill called hydrochlorothiazide, alongside a low-sodium diet, is given instead. This may seem counterintuitive. Why would we give a medication that causes the loss of more water when the dog is already losing too much water!? Well, this medication actually ends up causing the retention of sodium (and thus water) in dogs with this particular form of diabetes insipidus. Since more water is retained, urine volume is decreased.

Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of canine patients with diabetes insipidus varies. If the diabetes insipidus is caused by a lack of ADH production (not as a result of a brain tumor), then proper treatment leads to a normal life expectancy. If that lack of production is caused by a brain tumor; however, then the prognosis is very guarded. In other words, the situation is very serious and tends to worsen over a few months.

If the diabetes insipidus is caused by the kidneys (a lack of a response to the ADH), the prognosis is guarded. Meaning, such a scenario is hard but not impossible to medically manage and while the outlook in such cases is questionable there is still a chance for improvement.

Lesson Summary

Like humans, dogs can suffer from diabetes insipidus, a condition stemming from a lack of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) production or a lack of a response to the ADH by the kidneys. ADH is a hormone that tells the kidneys to stop making urine and to start preserving water within the body.

The major signs and symptoms of diabetes insipidus are:

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