November is National Pet Diabetes Month

November is National Pet Diabetes Month

What is diabetes?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, "Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a condition that occurs when the body can not use glucose (a type of sugar) normally. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body’s cells. The levels of glucose in the blood are primarily controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is made by the pancreas."

When your pet eats, their intestines break down the sugars and other nutrients from their food. The simple sugars (glucose) are then absorbed into the bloodstream for circulation and delivery to the whole body’s tissues and cells. Insulin is required for the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. If there is not enough insulin in your pet's body, the glucose accumulates in high levels in the blood – a condition called hyperglycemia. When the blood glucose reaches a certain level, the glucose overflows into the urine (this is called glucosuria) and draws large volumes of water with it. This is why diabetic pets often drink more water and urinate more frequently and in larger amounts.

There are two types of diabetes that can affect your pet:

  • Insulin-deficient diabetes - This is the most common type of diabetes in pets. This is when your pet's body isn’t producing enough insulin because the pancreas is damaged or not functioning properly. Pets with this type of diabetes need daily shots to replace the missing insulin.
  • Insulin-resistant diabetes - This type of diabetes occurs more frequently in older, obese pets. This is when the pancreas is producing some insulin, but the dog’s body isn’t utilizing the insulin as it should. The cells aren’t responding to the insulin, so glucose isn’t being pulled out of the blood and into the cells.

What are the signs of diabetes in pets?

Noticing the early signs of diabetes is the most important step in taking care of your pet. If you see any of the following signs, your pet should be examined by a veterinarian. The earlier the diagnosis, the better chance your pet may have for a longer and healthier life.

  • Excessive water drinking and increased urination

  • Weight loss, even though there may be an increased appetite

  • Decreased appetite

  • Cloudy eyes (especially in dogs)

  • Chronic or recurring infections (including skin infections and urinary infections)

Caring for your diabetic pet

Dogs and cats with diabetes usually require lifelong treatment with special diets, a good fitness regimen and, particularly in dogs, daily insulin injections. Management of your diabetic pet may include some or all of the following:


  • A high-fiber diet is often recommended.

  • Daily exercise is strongly recommended. Consult your veterinarian about an appropriate exercise program for your pet, considering factors such as weight, overall health and age.

  • Owners should consider spaying female dogs diagnosed with diabetes.


  • A high-protein, low carbohydrate diet is often recommended.

  • Daily exercise is strongly recommended, although it can be challenging to practice a daily fitness regimen with cats. Your veterinarian may be able to help you develop a plan.

Nature's Select of the Carolinas and its employees are not veterinary professionals. If you have any questions about your pet’s health, contact your veterinarian.