Diabetes in Dogs and Cats

Diabetes is something that most people think only humans can develop, but the truth is that dogs and cats can also develop diabetes. And like humans, dogs and cats are susceptible to both diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus.

This guide will help you learn more about diabetes in dogs and cats so you get your pet the treatment they need, or to help prevent your pet from developing diabetes in the first place.

diabetes in dogs and cats

4 Key Facts About Diabetes in Cats and Dogs

  1. Diabetes is a fatal disease for cats and dogs if it is left untreated
  2. If a cat or dog requires insulin, there is a chance that the pet could recover after a period and no longer need it
  3. How the insulin is administered can affect how it works
  4. A cat or dog’s diet is the top factor in causing, treating, and avoiding diabetes

The Difference Between Diabetes Mellitus and Diabetes Insipidus in Cats and Dogs

Of the two types of diabetes, diabetes mellitus is the most common to develop in dogs and cats. It is diagnosed as either Type I or Type II diabetes mellitus. Type I is known as “Insulin Dependent Diabetes.” This type of diabetes is caused by a total or near-total destruction of the beta-cells in the animal’s body. Type II diabetes, on the other hand, leaves some insulin-producing cells in the body, although not enough to do an adequate job of regulating the animal’s blood sugar levels. For this reason, it is known as “Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus.” This type of diabetes is most commonly caused by obesity and poor diet.

Diabetes insipidus is the rarer of the two forms of diabetes. It is also known as “watery diabetes” or “weak diabetes” because it affects the animal’s water metabolism. Rather than storing water, the animal’s body releases it, thus causing increased thirst and urination. It can only be diagnosed after extensive urine and blood tests are performed. Like diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus also comes in two forms – neurogenic and nephrogenic.

Neurogenic DI develops as a result of a lack of vasopressin, the hormone responsible for managing the body’s ability to retain water. Nephrogenic DI develops when the body is deficient in ADH, the hormone responsible for stimulating the capillary muscles and managing the flow of urine. Unlike diabetes mellitus, this type of diabetes is not diet or weight-related, so there is not a lot that can be done to help prevent a cat or dog from developing diabetes insipidus.

Dogs, Cats, and Their Risks of Developing Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that is more likely to be found in overweight cats and dogs and among those that eat primarily high-carbohydrate diets. It is rare for a healthy dog or cat to have the disease. In fact, an overweight cat is four-times at risk of developing diabetes than a cat of normal weight.

Unlike dogs, no specific cat breeds are known to be genetically predisposed to developing diabetes. Among canine species, Miniature Poodles, Dachshunds, Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds have an above-average rate of developing diabetes.

Male cats are twice as likely to develop diabetes as female cats while the opposite is true with canines. Among dogs, females are the most at-risk for developing the disease.

Potential Secondary Health Problems Related to Diabetes

Dogs and cats that have diabetes have a higher than average risk of developing secondary health problems, the most common of which include:

  • Nerve deterioration
  • Cataracts
  • Blindness
  • Kidney disease
  • Bladder infections
  • Gangrene
  • Paralysis
  • Coma

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Cats and Dogs

Despite the fact that diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus are two different diseases, they both present similar signs and symptoms, which include:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst and drinking
  • Decreased urination with dehydration
  • Occasional soiling inside the house
  • Poor hair coat
  • Increased hunger (DM)
  • Sudden weight loss

What Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a dangerous chemical imbalance that occurs in the pet’s body when her cells are unable to get the appropriate amount of glucose necessary for producing energy. Because the body is lacking glucose, it attempts to supplement it by breaking down muscle and fat for energy. When this happens, ketones and fatty acids enter the bloodstream.

When a pet is diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis, she will need to be placed on an IV until she stabilizes. Once the pet is stabilized, insulin therapy can re-started.

Diabetes Prevention

As stated earlier, diabetes insipidus cannot be prevented, but diabetes mellitus, the more common of the two, can be. To help reduce your pet’s risk of developing diabetes, you need to do the following:

  • Feed her a proper and balanced diet
  • Provide her with plenty of fresh, clean drinking water
  • Exercise your pet daily
  • Schedule and keep regular veterinarian appointments

Treatment Options for Diabetes

In order to determine a treatment protocol, a veterinarian will perform a blood test to measure the pet’s blood glucose level. A serial blood test will also usually be performed because a high glucose level does not always signify diabetes. A serial blood test measures a pet’s glucose level repeatedly over several hours. The results of this test will provide the veterinarian with the data he or she needs to choose an appropriate insulin, dose, and dosing schedule.

Diabetes insipidus is an incurable disease, but it can be managed by a veterinarian through the administration of antidiuretic hormone treatments. This type of treatment is available either by injection or in the form of nasal drops.

If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog or cat with diabetes and decides to prescribe insulin or other medications, you can receive a free quote for your pet’s medication from Diamondback Drugs. We can help you save money on your pet medications.

As always, be sure to inform your veterinarian about any medications or supplements your pet is currently taking so your vet can make the best treatment decision for your pet’s unique case and help reduce the risk of a potential drug interaction.


Author: Giano Panzarella