Pet diabetes: raising awareness for swift treatment and improved veterinary care

By Lidja Gillmeister, DVM

November is

Pet Diabetes

Month, and a great time for pet owners to become familiar with the common signs, symptoms and treatment options for cats and dogs with diabetes. Believe it or not, diabetes is fairly common in animals. But while a diabetes diagnosis may seem scary and overwhelming, the good news is that there are many strategies to curb symptoms and improve your pet’s health. If you suspect that your pet might have diabetes, schedule an appointment with your vet today. Remember: veterinarians are here to help, answer questions, and create custom treatment plans to keep your pet happy and healthy for years to come.

Recognizing diabetes in pets

Diabetes mellitus is a disorder arising from an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin made by the pancreas. A diabetes diagnosis means that either your pet’s pancreas is producing too little insulin, or else the insulin is not being effectively used to transport sugar into the cells for energy. Both of these scenarios result in excess sugar in the bloodstream, a condition known as hyperglycemia.

The main clinical signs of hyperglycemia in pets are increased water consumption, increased urination, increased appetite and weight loss. Additional signs may include lethargy, blindness (from cataracts, most common in dogs) and hind limb weakness (most common in cats). A veterinarian will make a diabetes diagnosis based on these clinical signs, together with persistently elevated blood sugar levels and sugar in the urine.

Diabetes treatment and monitoring

One a diagnosis has been reached, the veterinarian’s primary treatment goal will be to eliminate the signs listed above, and to keep your pet healthy and active while working to avoid health risks associated with low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. If left untreated, diabetes can result in a life threatening condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA. Therefore, it is essential for pet owners to work with their vet and follow the appropriate diet and lifestyle procedures for administering insulin injections and maintaining normal glucose levels.

Upon receiving a diabetes diagnosis, your animal will start daily insulin injections, almost always to be taken every twelve hours and after your pet has eaten a meal. A consistent feeding schedule will optimize diabetes regulation and insulin administration. Talk to your vet about receiving a demonstration before attempting to give your pet insulin at home. Once your pet is on a daily insulin routine, it will be necessary to monitor his blood glucose curve on a regular basis in order to determine accurate insulin dosage. Blood glucose curves can be taken at home or at the hospital; ask your vet for details.

Ultimately, the prognosis for pets with diabetes varies greatly depending on the ease of regulation, presence and reversibility of concurrent disorders and avoidance of complications associated with the diabetic state. Each case is highly dependent on the animal in question; therefore, the best first step is to contact your local

La Jolla veterinarian

to initiate the appropriate tests and determine the right course of action.

To learn more about treating pets with diabetes, or to schedule an appointment, contact us at

La Jolla Veterinary Hospital

today. Visit