What You Need to Know about Pet Diabetes

By: Hannah Lough

November is Pet Diabetes month.  The disease - Diabetes Mellitus - afflicts cats and dogs in the same way that it does humans, affecting the concentration of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. The body either makes too little insulin, stops producing it completely, or doesn’t utilize insulin properly. The difference however, is that dogs are more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-deficiency, while cats are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, also known as insulin resistant diabetes. (Elfenbein, n.d.). 

In canines, Type I diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin producing cells in the pancreas. These cells die as a result of inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis. According to PetMD, “Some dog breeds are predisposed to chronic pancreatitis and diabetes, including Keeshonds and Samoyeds” (Elfenbein, n.d.).

Like humans and cats, obese dogs are at risk for developing Type II diabetes. And if you’re on the fence about spaying your dog, you may be more inclined to do so upon learning that intact (not spayed) female dogs also fall into this high-risk category, as do those taking glucocorticoid (steroid) medications (Elfenbein, n.d.).

Increased thirst, frequent urination, weight loss (despite increased appetite) are all signs of Diabetes Mellitus.

While there is currently no cure for either canine or feline diabetes, both can be successfully managed. Your cat or dog will require daily insulin shots. Your vet may also determine that your pet’s medications need to be changed. A low carb, high protein and high fiber diet is recommended to provide your pet with energy, without the extra carbs that can convert into excess sugar. Exercise is also vital, but should be regulated, as activity affects blood glucose levels.  

Learning that any loved one, human or pet, has been diagnosed with diabetes can be difficult, and the treatment plan may feel daunting, but a turning point is on the horizon. In late August of 2018, Purdue University researchers, in collaboration with the Indiana University School of Medicine, developed the, “First minimally invasive therapy to successfully reverse Type 1 diabetes within 24 hours and maintain insulin independence for at least 90 days…. For diabetic pets, the next step is a pilot clinical study in dogs with naturally occurring Type 1 diabetes, which will be conducted in collaboration with Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine” (Wiles, 2018). With proper knowledge and action on the part of pet owners, your furry friend can have that birthday cupcake after all!



Elfenbein, H. (n.d.) Diabetes in Dogs: Type 1 vs. Type 2. The PetMD Pet Care Center: Dog.



Wiles, Kayla.  (August 21, 2018). New type 1 diabetes therapy shows promise for long-term reversal in both humans, dogs.


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Katie Cavangh