November is Pet Diabetes Month

Did you know that November is Pet Diabetes Month?

Just like humans, pets can be affected by diabetes as well. As the number of overweight and obese pets increase, so does the incidence of diabetes.

Diabetes occurs when the body does not make enough insulin, stops producing it, or doesn’t use insulin properly.

Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is responsible for giving the cells of the body the energy they need to function, by allowing glucose (sugar) in the blood to enter the cells. Insulin is what helps keep the blood sugar from getting too high or too low.

In a diabetic pet, the cells don’t have enough sugar to function properly, so the body begins to break down tissues which are then converted to sugar. This causes the pet’s blood sugar to increase. With prolonged high blood sugar, organ damage and even death occurs if the pet is not adequately treated.

It is important to be aware of the risks for diabetes and know the common signs.

Risk factors:

  • Age (older dogs and cats are more susceptible)
  • Obesity
  • Un-spayed female dogs
  • Breed – certain dog breeds are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, including:
    • Cocker Spaniels
    • Dachshunds
    • Doberman Pinschers
    • German Shepherds
    • Golden Retrievers
    • Labrador Retrievers
    • Pomeranians
    • Miniature Schnauzers
    • Miniature/Toy Poodles
    • Beagles
    • Bichon Frise
    • Pugs
    • Puli
    • Samoyeds
    • Terriers (Fox Terrier/Australian Terrier)
  • Genetics
  • Indoor lifestyle (cats)
  • Physical inactivity
  • Other insulin-resistant disorders/diseases (ex: chronic pancreatitis or hyperthyroidism)
  • Neutered male cats

Common signs of diabetes:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination – your pet produces more urine per day or has “accidents” in the house/outside the litterbox
  • Excessive hunger while losing weight
  • Poor skin condition
  • Lethargy (less active/sleeps more)
  • Thinning, dry and dull fur
  • Cloudy eyes (dogs)
  • Doesn’t groom (cats)

Dogs are usually diagnosed with Type I diabetes, meaning there is a deficiency in the way the pancreas produces insulin. Cats are usually diagnosed with Type II diabetes that results from a decreased sensitivity to insulin. Which is why, with proper care, it may be possible to reduce or eliminate insulin treatment in a cat.

While there is no cure for diabetes, it is easily diagnosed and your Veterinarian can create a treatment plan for your pet, and it can be successfully managed.

Managing Diabetes:

Daily insulin injections

  • Just like humans, diabetes in pets is typically controlled with insulin injections, usually given once or twice a day following a meal. This restores your pet’s insulin levels and controls blood glucose levels. Many pet parents are anxious about giving injections to their pet, but it is easier than you may think. With the help of your Veterinary healthcare team, you can quickly learn how to handle administering insulin injections with little stress for you or your pet.


  • Diet plays a vital role in helping to keep your pet’s diabetes regulated. Your Veterinarian can recommend a diet that is best for the needs of your pet. A high-quality, consistent source of protein is an essential part of any diabetic diet. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are currently recommended for diabetic pets as it provides the energy they need to get through their days, without the extra carbs that can turn into excess sugar. It is important to feed your pet based on its ideal body weight. Consistent timing and size of meals is also very important. If your pet is overweight or obese, a plan will be created to help your pet reach their ideal weight.

Regular Veterinary checkups

  • Regular veterinary checkups and bloodwork are necessary to monitor potential changes in your pet’s condition. Careful and close monitoring helps to successfully manage diabetes over time.


  • Exercise can help pets, especially dogs with diabetes, however, it does need to be regulated as activity affects blood glucose levels. It is best to create a consistent exercise routine for your diabetic dog and stick to it.

Once a pet’s diabetes is properly managed, the prognosis is good. However, if left undiagnosed or without proper treatment, diabetes can cause other, more serious health problems, including, cataracts, blindness, urinary tract infections, enlarged liver, seizures and ketoacidosis (a life-threatening complication of untreated diabetes)

Be aware of the signs of diabetes, as the sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner it can be managed.

With effective treatment and monitoring, a pet with diabetes should have the same life expectancy as a pet without diabetes of the same age. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment helps pets with diabetes maintain a good quality of life.

Only a licensed Veterinarian can officially confirm a diagnosis of diabetes in your pet. If you suspect your pet may have diabetes, please contact your Veterinarian as soon as possible.  

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