Diabetes in Pets


Paws-itive Press

Diabetes in Pets

By Dr. Cristina Anzures of the Anzer Animal Hospital 

Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body can not use glucose (a type of sugar) normally.  Glucose is the main source of energy for the body’s cells.   The levels of glucose in the blood are primarily controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is made by the pancreas.

Insulin is required for the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream to the cells.  If there is not enough insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin, glucose accumulates in high levels in the blood – a condition called hyperglycemia. When the blood glucose reaches a certain level, the glucose overflows into the urine (this is called glucosuria) and draws large volumes of water with it. This is why diabetic pets often drink more water and urinate more frequently and in larger amounts.

It is estimated that 1 out of every 100 dogs that reaches 12 years of age will develop diabetes. In cats, it’s estimated that between 1 in 50 and 1 in 500 will develop diabetes mellitus.

In dogs, diabetes mellitus is common in middle-aged to older animals, especially in females, but it is also seen in young dogs of both sexes. When seen in younger animals, it can be a sign that your cat or dog is genetically predisposed to diabetes—this can mean that related animals may also be predisposed.  Certain breeds of dogs also experience above-average rates of diabetes. These include: Toy Poodles, Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers.

Signs of diabetes in pets:

  • Excessive water drinking and increased urination
  • Weight loss, even though there may be an increased appetite
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cloudy eyes (especially in dogs)
  • Coat deterioration
  • Chronic or recurring infections (including skin infections and urinary infections)

In dogs, the most common diabetes-related complications include:


  • Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia (that may be induced by incorrect insulin dosing)
  • Ketoacidosis (ketones and high acidity in body fluids)
  • Cataracts

 In cats, the most common diabetes-related complications include:

  • Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia (that may be induced by transient remission or incorrect insulin dosing)
  • Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Poor grooming and dry, lusterless coat
  • Recurrent infections
  • Ketoacidosis(ketones and high acidity in body fluids)
  • Peripheral Neuropathy(nerve dysfunction resulting in an abnormal stance)

Successfully managing your diabetic pet’s health is possible with insulin therapy, the correct diet, and exercise. With the successful control of diabetes mellitus, you can expect your pet to live a happy and normal life.

 If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior or weight, consult your veterinarian.  Diabetic dogs and cats can live long and healthy lives with proper management and veterinary care.