Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your dog.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) in Dogs

DKA is a life-threatening condition in dogs.

DKA is a life-threatening complication of diabetes mellitus. Many dogs experience DKA before the owner is even aware the dog has diabetes. Other times, it occurs in known diabetics already on insulin.

What Is DKA in Dogs?

DKA is a condition in which a dog's metabolic system becomes completely unhinged because there is not enough insulin available to break down glucose for use by the body. As a result, the dog's liver begins rapidly burning fat for fuel instead.

The result of the fat-burning binge is the production of ketone bodies, which can be used by the dog's body for energy in the short-term. However, the longer term results are severe pH and electrolyte imbalances in the body that cause a cascade, eventually resulting in metabolic shock and death.

Cause of DKA in Dogs

Diabetes mellitus causes DKA. Untreated diabetes may progress to DKA over time, as less insulin is made, and the body tries to sustain itself, eventually, by burning fat. Otherwise, DKA can be triggered in a regulated diabetic by a stress on the system. Common triggers include:

*Most common precipitating conditions for DKA in dogs.

Signs of DKA in Dogs

Signs of diabetic ketoacidosis in dogs include:

  • Dehydration
  • Sweet odor on the breath
  • Fatigue
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Unkempt, dull coat
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Refusal to eat
  • Collapse

Diagnosis of DKA in Dogs

Your veterinarian will suspect DKA if your diabetic dog develops weakness, vomiting, and labored breathing. Blood work will reveal a very high blood glucose level. A urinalysis will also reveal glucose but also ketones.

Treatment of DKA in Dogs

Treatment of canine diabetic ketoacidosis includes the following:

  • Intravenous fluid therapy
  • Insulin
  • Potassium supplementation
  • Phosphorus supplementation
  • Stabilization of blood pH levels

All the therapies above must be done with extreme care and close monitoring of blood values. The prognosis is good for reversing DKA if it's recognized quickly and treated carefully but aggressively.

Once there are no ketones in the urine and the dog is eating and not vomiting, the crisis is over, and the dog can go home on regular diabetes management.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Diabetes in Dogs

Cataracts in Dogs

Causes of Frequent Urination and Urinary Accidents in Dogs

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Healthy Treats for Dogs

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site. Just Answer is an external service not affiliated with

Notice: Ask-a-Vet is an affiliated service for those who wish to speak with a veterinary professional about their pet's specific condition. Initially, a bot will ask questions to determine the general nature of your concern. Then, you will be transferred to a human. There is a charge for the service if you choose to connect to a veterinarian. Ask-a-Vet is not manned by the staff or owners of, and the advice given should not delay or replace a visit to your veterinarian.