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Pets & Diabetes

What Is Diabetes?

With diabetes, the glucose-insulin connection isn’t working as it should. Diabetes occurs

in two forms.

Insulin-deficiency diabetes —This is when the animal's body isn’t producing enough insulin. This happens when the pancreas is damaged or otherwise not functioning properly. Animals with this type of diabetes need daily shots to replace the missing insulin. This is the most common type of diabetes.

Insulin-resistance diabetes—This is when the pancreas is producing some insulin, but the animal's body isn’t utilizing the insulin as it should. The cells aren’t responding to the insulin’s “message,” so glucose isn’t being pulled out of the blood and into the cells. This type of diabetes can especially occur in older, obese animals. Female dogs + cats can also develop temporary insulin resistance while in heat or pregnant.

Damage caused by diabetes:

Whatever the type of diabetes, the negative effects on the body are the same. Excessive

sugar builds up in the dog/cats bloodstream, and yet the body’s cells that need that

sugar can’t access it.

So the “bad” effects that diabetes causes in the dogs/cats body are twofold:

  • Cells are starved for vital “fuel.” Muscle cells and certain organ cells are deprived of the glucose “fuel” they need for energy. In response, the body starts breaking down its own fats and proteins to use as an alternative fuel.

  • The high sugar level in the bloodstream damages many organs. Without insulin to help convert the glucose in the bloodstream into fuel, high levels of glucose build up in the blood. Unfortunately, this abnormal blood chemistry acts as a sort of poison and eventually causes multi-organ damage. This often includes damage to the kidneys, eyes, heart, blood vessels, or nerves.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs + Cats?

Early signs. The owner will sometimes notice certain symptoms that can be early signs of diabetes:

• Excessive thirst.

• Increased urination.

• Weight loss.

• Increased appetite.

Advanced signs. In more advanced cases of diabetes, symptoms can become more

pronounced and can include:

• Loss of appetite

• Lack of energy

• Depressed attitude

• Vomiting

Threats to health. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to devastating effects on the dog’s &

cats body, which is why early detection and proper treatment are crucial. Effects of

diabetes on the dog’s health can include:

• Cataracts (leading to blindness)

• Enlarged liver

• Urinary tract infections

• Seizures

• Kidney failure


Your veterinarian can do simple tests to check for diabetes, including testing for

excessive glucose (sugar) in the blood and urine. Blood tests can also show other

indications of diabetes, such as high liver enzymes and electrolyte imbalances.

The sooner diabetes is diagnosed and treatment began, the better chance the pet has

of a normal life.

What Can Make a Dog/Cats at Risk for Diabetes?

Several factors raise a dog’s risk of developing diabetes. These include breed, age,

gender, weight, diet, virus infections, an inflamed pancreas, chronic inflammation of the

small bowel, Cushing’s disease (excess production of the hormone cortisol) and long-

term use of progesterone-like drugs or steroid drugs.


Studies show that mixed-breed dogs were more prone to diabetes than

purebreds. Among purebreds, breeds varied greatly in their susceptibility.

Dog breeds more prone to diabetes (from highest to lower risk) include Australian

Terrier, Standard Schnauzer, Samoyed, Miniature Schnauzer, Fox Terrier, Keeshond,

Bichon Frise, Finnish, Spitz, Cairn Terrier, Miniature Poodle, Siberian Husky and Toy


Dog Breeds less prone to diabetes (from lowest to higher risk) include Boxer, German

Shepherd, Pekinese, Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Bulldog, Great Dane, Cocker Spaniel,

Golden Retriever, Old English Sheepdog, Irish Setter and Doberman Pinscher.

What Cats are at Risk? Any cat could develop diabetes, but certain breeds, like

Burmese and Siamese cats experience an above-average rate of diabetes.

Age. most often develop diabetes during middle or old age.


Female dogs and neutered male dogs are more likely than intact males to get

diabetes and neutered male cats are also more likely to suffer from diabetes.

Weight Obesity can make cells resistant to insulin, but it’s unclear whether it actually

causes diabetes in dogs & cats.

Diet A diet high in fat may contribute to pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas), a risk factor

for diabetes.


Insulin injections are a necessary part of diabetes treatment, once diagnosed, injections

should be done twice daily, but finding an appropriate dosage can be time-consuming.

“Your veterinarian will perform blood glucose curves, which involves taking a blood

sugar sample every couple of hours, starting as soon as possible after the morning dose

of insulin and finishing as close to the evening dose as possible.

These curves may need to be done every one to two weeks for several months to find

the best possible dosage for your pet.

In addition to twice-daily insulin injections, it is also very important that your pet's diet,

exercise and stress levels stay as consistent as possible.

Your veterinarian will come up with a detailed plan regarding the timing and dose of

insulin as well as how to handle any potential problems that might develop. For

instance, vets commonly recommend that insulin injections be given right after meals so

that the dose can be lowered if your pet is less than normal.

If you have reason to believe that your pet may be suffering or any of the symptoms stated above please call and make an appointment without Veterinarian or call and discuss your concerns.

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