Breed differences in susceptibility to diabetes mellitus in dogs suggest an underlying genetic component to the pathogenesis of the disease. There is little evidence for an equivalent of human type 2 diabetes in dogs, and it has been proposed that canine diabetes is more comparable to the type 1 form of the disease. Certain immune response genes, particularly those encoding major histocompatibility complex molecules involved in antigen presentation, are important in determining susceptibility to human type 1 diabetes. We tested the hypothesis that canine major histocompatibility complex genes (known as the dog leucocyte antigen) are associated with diabetes in dogs. A total of 530 diabetic dogs and more than 1000 controls were typed for dog leucocyte antigen, and associations were found with three specific haplotypes. The DLA-DRB1*009/DQA1*001/DQB1*008 haplotype shows the strongest association with diabetes in the UK dog population. This haplotype is common in diabetes-prone breeds (Samoyed, cairn terrier and Tibetan terrier) but rare in diabetes-resistant breeds (boxer, German shepherd dog and golden retriever), which could explain differences in the prevalence of diabetes in these different breeds. There is evidence that the DLA-DQA1*001 allele is also associated with hypothyroidism, suggesting that this could represent a common susceptibility allele for canine immune-mediated endocrinopathies.