Diabetes Mellitus Management for Dogs and Cats

Diabetes is a chronic endocrine disorder that can occur in dogs and cats. It is characterized by high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), increased appetite with or without weight loss, increased thirst and increased urination. These signs occur when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to meet the animal's requirements.

Insulin is a hormone which is needed to transport glucose (blood sugar) as well as certain amino acids and minerals through the blood to energy producing cells. When a lack of insulin occurs, glucose cannot move into the cells and the glucose level in the blood rises to abnormally high levels. This rise in blood sugar causes increased thirst and increased urination. The increased appetite with weight loss is due to the lack of energy getting into the cells.

Other Signs of Diabetes

Symptoms of a bacterial UTI may or may not be present and are dependent on which part or parts of the urinary system are infected. The urinary bladder is most often infected, in which case one often observes signs of urgency and frequent urination (pollakiuria). Other symptoms may include blood in urine (hematuria), straining to urinate (stranguria), foul-smelling urine, urination in inappropriate places, inability to hold urine, and urinating small volumes or not passing any urine while posturing to urinate.

Whenever your pet is showing signs of a health issue your first step is to contact your primary care veterinarian. If it is indicated that your pet may suffer from diabetes or another serious condition, a veterinary specialist is available at an ExpertVet certified hospital.


Diabetes in dogs and cats is caused by damage to the pancreas. Predisposing factors include chronic pancreatitis, obesity (greater than 15% over ideal body weight), genetic predisposition, poor quality diet, hormonal abnormalities, stress and certain drugs. The sex of the animal can also be a predisposing factor. In dogs females are affected twice as often as males whereas in cats diabetes is seen more often in males.


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination of your pet and ask you questions about your pet's health history. Your pet's diet history is also very important. Blood work and urinalysis need to be done to confirm the presence of diabetes. Depending on the condition of your pet at this initial exam, hospitalization may be necessary to allow for correction of any metabolic problems and stabilization of the diabetes. Diabetes is often complicated by urinary tract infections, other hormone disorders (Cushing's disease, hyperthyroidism), infections, or a build-up of chemical compounds called ketones in the body.


Treatment requires a commitment of time and management from you, the owner. There is no cure for diabetes, but, as with humans, it can be controlled with insulin injections, diet and exercise. With such therapies, your pet can lead a happy, comfortable, and prolonged life.

All dogs with diabetes are insulin-dependent and thereby require daily insulin injections. Although most cats are also insulin-dependent, some cats are non-insulin dependent and their disease can be controlled by diet, weight loss (if obese), and oral hypoglycemic medications. Some cats with diabetes may lose their requirement for insulin for reasons that are not completely understood.

Upon diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, specific insulin requirements will need to be determined. Frequent phone contact may be required in order to mutually assess proper response to insulin therapy. Your pet's insulin needs may change once going home because of diet changes, exercise levels, and changes in environmental stresses. Therefore, periodic reevaluation of blood work will need to be done until satisfactory control is achieved. Once reasonable diabetic control is achieved, evaluations should be done every 3-6 months.

Should there be need to change the brand of insulin, there will be a need to start over as though insulin had never been given until the proper dose of the new insulin may be determined.