Diabetes in Pets

Diabetes in Cats and Dogs

Diabetes mellitus, the most prevalent type of diabetes in cats and dogs, occurs when the body can’t manage glucose normally. Glucose (sugar) levels in the blood are mainly controlled by the hormone insulin, which transfers glucose from blood to the cells.

When the body isn’t able to create or manage insulin properly, glucose will accumulate in the blood and, at a certain point, overflow into the urine, taking a large amount of water with it. As a result, diabetic pets will drink water and urinate more frequently than healthy pets.

The lack of glucose being transferred to the cells starves bodily tissues of the energy they need to function normally. This results in a breakdown of fat and muscle, causing weight loss and further physical problems often seen in diabetics.

While there is level I and level II diabetes in cats and dogs, the difference is not as substantial as it is in humans.

What Causes Diabetes in the First Place?

Obesity is a significant contributor to diabetes, and cats and dogs are most commonly diagnosed during their mid to later years. There are also a handful of diseases that might cause diabetes or make managing diabetes difficult.

For example, the long-term use of corticosteroids for many health problems, including cancer and pancreatitis, significantly raises the risk of diabetes.

Additionally, certain breeds of dogs are predisposed to diabetes.

Signs of Diabetes

  • Excessive water drinking
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Cloudy eyes or cataracts
  • Chronic or recurring infections
  • Vomiting
  • Poor coat condition

If left untreated—or not treated properly—diabetes can lead to a condition called ketoacidosis, which causes kidney failure, pancreatitis, swelling of the brain, and a rapid, painful death.

How to Manage and Treat Diabetes

Once diabetes in a cat or dog is diagnosed, the next step is adjusting the diet and starting insulin injections. The best type of insulin and frequency/dosage will depend on your particular pet’s situation, and your vet will go over the best options with you.

While administering insulin can be nerve-racking for both pets and their owners, insulin is typically administered in very small amounts through tiny needles, so it won’t cause your pet much—if any—discomfort. Once a routine is in place, you’ll notice that you and your pet are much more relaxed about the process!

Nutrition is extremely important for the management of diabetes, and sometimes remission is even possible with the implementation of a consistently healthy diet. Your vet will determine the best kinds of food for your pet along with the best portion size and frequency of feeding.


In addition to regular visits to the vet, the primary ways that you can prevent diabetes in your pets is by feeding them a healthy diet, keeping them at a healthy weight with appropriate portion sizes and exercise, and monitoring them closely for any warning signs.

Even if you haven’t been feeding your cat or dog healthy, appropriately-portioned food, it’s not too late the change their diet and make a real difference in their long-term health.

Listen to your vet. If your pet is experiencing any of the warning signs, don’t hesitate to take your pet to the vet and follow every bit of your vet’s advice. That advice could be the key to preventing your pet’s health from deteriorating into a miserable, expensive, or unmanageable health issue.

Come on by Pets on Broadway and talk to our animal care specialists about the diabetes-friendly foods and treats that we carry!