Information on the causes of diabetes and low insulin levels in cats and dogs.

Select a Topic

  1. What is a Diabetic?
  2. What Causes Diabetes Mellitus?
  3. Diagnosing a Diabetic Pet
  4. Help for a Diabetic Pet
  5. More Information on Diabetes Mellitus

What is a Diabetic?

Diabetes mellitus is a common illness affecting millions of dogs and cats worldwide. This condition occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient insulin, which in turn affects the body’s ability to control its blood sugar levels. The pancreas produces the hormone called insulin which stores or burns sugar in the blood (also called glucose) for energy – in other words, it keeps the blood sugar levels balanced.

When diabetes occurs, the body is either unable to produce any insulin or it produces an insufficient amount, or does not use insulin properly. As a result glucose accumulates in the bloodstream and increases the blood sugar levels. Diabetic pets may either have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. If your pet is a Type 1 diabetic, the body does not produce any insulin while a Type 2 diabetic does not enough insulin or the body cannot use it effectively.

If left untreated, elevated levels of blood sugar levels can lead to several complications such as cataracts, leg weakness, infections, gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, kidney and liver disease and a coma. It frequently affects middle aged to older dogs and cats but can affect younger animals. Female dogs, especially un-spayed bitches and male cats are more prone to developing diabetes.

The common symptoms and signs of a diabetic pet include:
  • Weight loss
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Decreased appetite
  • Breakdown of body fat
  • Foul-smelling breath (smells like nail polish remover)

What Causes Diabetes Mellitus?

The exact cause of diabetes is not known. Underlying factors such as hereditary factors, being overweight/obese, pancreatitis, or the use of certain medications like corticosteroids or progestogens may increase your pet’s risk of diabetes.

Diagnosing a Diabetic Pet

The diagnosis of diabetes is based on the symptoms presented, thorough physical examination and finding an elevated increase in blood sugar levels and large quantities of sugar in the urine. Tests such as blood tests or urine samples may be performed to confirm a diagnosis of diabetes.

Help for a Diabetic Pet

Your vet will prescribe insulin for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. There two forms of insulin, intermediate acting insulin such as NPH and lente, and long-acting insulin such as PZI and Ultralente. Consult with your vet on how to administer insulin.

Managing your pet’s diabetes is very important to ensure that they enjoy a longer, healthier life. You can take an active role in your pet’s treatment by feeding him a nutritious diet, regular exercise and monitoring blood glucose levels.

More Information on Diabetes Mellitus

Tips to manage a diabetic pet

There are a number of things that you can do to manage the health and wellbeing of a diabetic pet and these include:

  • Feed your pet a high protein, low carbohydrate diet by adding more fiber and reducing calories
  • Before administering insulin, feed your dog or cat first
  • Store insulin the refrigerator
  • Remember never to use insulin after its expiration date
  • Monitor blood glucose levels by keeping a record of your pet’s weight, how long the insulin is acting, or whether any changes should be made to the type of insulin or dose used Keep a consistent schedule of feedings and insulin injections
  • Exercise your pet regularly to maintain a healthy weight
  • Take your dog or cat for regular veterinary check ups
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