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Diabetes in Your Pet
What is diabetes? In veterinary medicine, there are two types of diabetes mellitus: Type I DM and Type II DM. Type I occurs when the body doesn’t make ...
October 29, 2014

What is diabetes?

In veterinary medicine, there are two types of diabetes mellitus: Type I DM and Type II DM. Type I occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin, a hormone that is produced by the pancreas. This form of diabetes requires lifelong insulin injections. In Type II DM, the body does not use insulin properly, a condition referred to as insulin resistance. Initially, the pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for this; however, over time it is not able to keep up and make enough insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels. This form of diabetes also requires insulin injections and monitoring of blood glucose levels. The good news is that both types of diabetes are manageable and, if detected early, pets with diabetes can live a normal life.

Are there certain dogs or cat that are more susceptible?

  • Type I DM is most commonly seen in dogs; more typically dogs 7-9 years of age.
  • Female dogs seem to be more likely to develop diabetes.
  • Some breeds of dogs may run a greater risk, including Australian Terriers, Schnauzers, Samoyeds, Fox Terriers, Keeshonds, Bichon Frises, Finnish Spitz, Cairn Terriers, and Poodles.
  • Type II DM is the more common form of diabetes seen in cats; more typically seen in older cats, 8-13 years of age.
  • Male cats and breeds such as Burmese are over-represented.


Treatment for diabetes differs between dogs and cats. For dogs, treatment requires twice a day injections of insulin and careful blood work monitoring. For cats, weight control in overweight cats is a big part of managing cats with diabetes, but like dogs they also benefit from insulin therapy. While some cats may go into a state of remission for a period of time and not require insulin, many of these cats often will later relapse as their disease progresses. Nutritional management in both dogs and cats is helpful in maintaining steady blood sugar levels.

Signs of Diabetes

The signs of diabetes can develop very gradually, but signs to be aware of include:

  • Increased thirst (pet may be emptying his water dish more frequently)
  • Excessive urination, urinating outside the litterbox or inappropriate urination Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Blindness (seen primarily in dogs, but cats can also develop blindness from diabetic cataracts)
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Weakness in rear limbs (cats only)
  • Weight loss

If your pet is exhibiting any of these common signs, we encourage you to seek advice from your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian is your resource on diabetes and can provide you with appropriate preventive tips and help in the management of the disease if your pet is diagnosed with diabetes. With the support of your primary care veterinarian, the prognosis is positive. The sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner you can begin treatment and get your pet on the road to an active and healthy life.