Diabetes In Pets


Often a less talked about problem in the pet health world is diabetes in cats or dogs.  Operating similarly in both humans and pets, diabetes is a manageable health problem that should be highlighted more, if simply to enable you to recognize the symptoms earlier.  While a diagnosis of diabetes for your pet may require some lifestyle adjustments, your pet can live a long, happy life of excellent health.


What is Diabetes?

The most important part to understanding diabetes is to understanding what insulin is.  Insulin is a chemical that is produced in the pancreas and tells the body to turn glucose in the blood stream into energy for the muscles to live from.  Glucose is the product of metabolizing the carbohydrates, fats and proteins the body takes in through food.  If the body does not receive the message to turn glucose into energy, it expels the glucose in the blood stream into the urine and out of the body.  Without the insulin to turn the glucose into energy for muscles and organs, the body will go into a coma and die.  This part of biology is true in humans, dogs, cats, and most other vertebrates.

Diabetes comes in two types; Type I and Type II.  Type I is due to lack of insulin production in the pancreas, which means the cat or dog is dependent on insulin injections for their life.  Type II means the pancreas makes insulin, but the body does not respond to it correctly, or ignores it entirely.  In both cases insulin shots are necessary to allow for a normal life.


What Causes Diabetes and What Does It Look Like?

Diabetes can come from a variety of causes.  Some types of breeds are genetically predisposed to having diabetes, such as; Samoyed, Cairn Terrier, Dachshund, Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Miniature Pinscher, Golden Retrievers, and Beagles (among others).  In other pets, the pancreas can become damaged in autoimmune disorders.  A pet is more likely to develop diabetes the older it gets, though diabetes from birth, or juvenile diabetes, is possible as well.  

Diabetes will have a few early symptoms, such as; frequent urination, drinking lots of water, always hungry, weight loss in normal appetite, glucose in urine, and high blood glucose, vomiting, skin disorders, or sweet-smelling breath.  If your pet displays any of these symptoms, please mention it to your veterinarian for a blood and urine test.

How do you Treat Diabetes in Pets?

No matter which type a pet is diagnosed with, diabetes is an easily treatable chronic illness.  Your vet will most likely recommend twice daily injects of a prescribed insulin, and a strictly controlled diet and exercise regime.  An overweight pet may not be cured with weight loss, but their overall health will improve and their diabetes will become more manageable.  

Your Vet will also likely recommend a high-quality dog or cat food (canned is preferred), which is low in carbohydrates, to be fed to them thirty minutes before their insulin shot.  This is so that their blood glucose level, which raises after eating, is controlled correctly.  If insulin is given too long before or after a meal, the pets’ blood sugar levels can become too high or low.  

Regular exercise will be recommended as well, for general health but also to help regulate glucose levels.  If you have a female cat or dog, your vet may recommend spaying them, as the regular rise in hormones will cause blood glucose levels to be erratic.

If your pet is newly diagnosed with diabetes type I or II, your vet may also recommend regular blood glucose checks and weekly weigh-ins to monitor whether insulin levels are being maintained.  Often insulin shots require initial adjustment, especially if the new diet and exercise has your pet losing a few pounds.

The site of insulin injection is important. An appropriate location must be chosen, as absorption of insulin from various sites in the body differs. In dogs and cats, the dorsal neck, or the scruff, has commonly been used as an injection site, but this location may not be ideal because of low blood flow and increased fibrosis caused by repeated injections. A better option may be to administer the insulin along the lateral abdomen and thorax. The chosen area should be rotated daily to prevent fibrosis at an injection site.

No matter which type of diabetes your pet is diagnosed with, your pet has a very long and healthy life ahead of them.  With a little bit tender love and care, and a few pokes, your pet will be just as healthy as any other pet.  

Do you have a pet that has been diagnosed with diabetes?  Let us know in the comments some tips or tricks that has helped you keep them healthy!


Blog author Lauren Pescarus is an admitted Cat Person who admires all pets from afar.  She lives at home in Romania with her husband, and loves to buy things for the pets she will soon convince her lucky spouse to bring home.  For more information about Lauren’s writing services, follow this LINK.

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