Diabetes mellitus, or type II adult-onset diabetes, is not just a human disease. This serious condition threatens the lives of many pets. Cases are on the rise. It’s never been more important than it is now to learn about diabetes in pets. Read on to learn what to watch for, required treatment, and, most of all, prevention.

The Disease

The pancreas creates insulin. Insulin helps the body absorb glucose and use it for energy. Diabetes occurs when the body either fails to respond to insulin or fails to make a sufficient amount of insulin. Blood sugar levels rise when cells can’t absorb glucose. The body begins to feed on fat and protein to gain the energy it can’t get from glucose.

Without treatment, diabetes can lead to a large number of complications. These include dehydration, blindness, nerve damage, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, and organ failure among others.


Diabetes is on the rise and has been consistently for more than a decade. According to the latest Banfield State of Pet Health Report, since 2006, the number of dogs afflicted with diabetes rose nearly 80%. The number of cats with diabetes rose just over 18% in the same period. New Mexico is listed as high risk for both dogs and cats. We are among the top five states with the most cases of feline diabetes.

Risk and Cause

While diabetes mellitus is more common in cats than in dogs, both are at risk for the disease. It’s possible for diabetes to form in any pet; but it’s most likely to develop in older and overweight pets.

Obesity is the number one contributor. Obesity causes insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes among a slew of other weight-related ailments.

Age also increases the risk of diabetes. Factors such as reduced physical activity, certain age-related diseases that affect the pancreas’s function, and long-term use of certain medications can contribute.


Most cases of diabetes are preventable. It all starts with keeping regular wellness visits with your veterinarian. Monitoring pets as they age, having conversations about life stages with your pet’s doctor, and adjusting lifestyle factors through those stages help stave off this disease. Weight management with proper nutrition and adequate exercise is imperative. That means no table scraps, easy on the treats, quality portion-controlled meals, and plenty of exercise.


Several signs point to the presence of diabetes in pets:

  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Weight loss despite increased appetite
  • Decreased appetite
  • Hazy/glazed-over eyes in dogs
  • Weak rear legs in cats
  • Depression/lethargy


When we suspect a cat or dog may have diabetes, we perform a few simple diagnostics to confirm or rule out diabetes. We begin with a physical exam and a discussion with pet parents about any changes in behavior. We then do a urinalysis to detect glucose in the urine and a blood test to measure levels of glucose and other enzymes in the blood.

Treatment and Management

Diabetes mellitus is treatable. With immediate treatment and proper management, pets can live relatively normal lives as diabetics. As of now, there is no cure. Remission is possible but unusual.

The goal of treatment is to correct and maintain blood glucose levels. There are a few avenues we use to treat and manage diabetes. Nutrition plays a role in regulating glucose levels. High-protein, high- fiber, low-fat, low-carbohydrate diets help nourish and manage weight while slowing sugar absorption. Exercise also helps.

In addition to diet and exercise, insulin therapy is necessary in most diabetic patients. This requires pet parents to administer shots to pets. Although it can be an intimidating thought, giving pets daily insulin shots is simple and quick.

Once insulin therapy begins, we need to monitor pets closely. We use glucose curves to set, measure, and adjust insulin levels and their efficacy. A glucose curve involves testing blood every couple of hours throughout the course of a day and watching how the body is responding to and using the insulin. When pets respond well to treatment and show consistent glucose regulation, we like to see them for checkups every four to six months.

Maintaining a healthy pet with regular wellness visits, diet, and exercise is the best way to keep this disease out of pets’ bodies. Paying attention to pets’ behavior changes and helping them live and age as healthily as possible is important in the prevention of any disease including diabetes.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Here at Sandia Animal Clinic, we offer a 10% discount on a variety of tests including glucose cultures and curves for diabetics, glucose checks, and urinalyses during November.

Call us today at 505-299-9533 to make an appointment. We also invite you to connect with us on our Facebook page.

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