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Diabetes mellitus is a common disease in people, dogs and cats. In a diabetic patient, there is a decrease in insulin production by the pancreas. Insulin drives blood sugar, or glucose, into the tissues where it can be used for energy. A lack or decrease of insulin leads to elevations of blood sugar. Very high levels of blood glucose will lead to a “spilling over” into the urine through the kidneys. High glucose (sugar) levels in the urine cause water to be pulled into the urine, leading to excessive urination. With a dramatic loss of water through the urine, the pet has to compensate by drinking more.

Diabetes mellitus is caused by damage to the pancreas. Some predisposing factors are: obesity, genetic predisposition, poor diet, hormonal abnormalities, stress and certain medications. Pancreatic cancer can also be a cause of diabetes mellitus but this is far less common.


Increased urination and water intake

Increased appetite

Weight loss

Later in the disease lethargy, anorexia and

vomiting are common


A thorough physical exam and detailed history are always the first step in diagnosing a problem. Next, a urine sample, complete blood count, chemistry profile and electrolytes will be performed. High levels of glucose, both in the urine and bloodstream, are indicative of diabetes mellitus. Further testing may be required in certain cases.



This is the mainstay of therapy for the diabetic patient. There are many types of insulin and dosages vary greatly. Each patient will react differently to insulin and it may take weeks to months to arrive at the right dosage for your pet. Most cats require insulin injections twice daily.


In many cases, a diet that is high in complex

carbohydrates is preferable because sugar levels will

stay more consistent after ingestion rather than spiking

and then decreasing rapidly. A good choice for cats is Purina DM and dogs typically do well on Purina DCO or OM . It is very important that you stay consistent with your pet’s diet and avoid high sugar foods and treats.

Weight control:

This can play a huge role in regulating your diabetic pet. Please consult us for a safe plan in trying to slim your pet down.


The key ingredient for successfully managing your diabetic animal is CONSISTENCY. The amount and type of insulin, time of insulin administration, amount and type of food, feeding times and exercise should remain as similar as possible from day to day. High calorie/sugar treats should be avoided but treats such as milkbones are ok in moderation. It is best to feed your pet twice daily. Some cats are “nibblers” by nature, if this is the case then the dry food can be left out all day and small amounts of high quality canned food can be given twice daily at the time of insulin administration. IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT YOUR PET IS EATING NORMALLY WHEN RECEIVING INSULIN INJECTIONS. If your pet’s appetite is reduced or your pet is not acting normally, STOP GIVING INSULIN AND CALL US IMMEDIATELY. It is very important that your pet eats at the time of the insulin injection. If the animal has not eaten, blood sugar will be fairly low and insulin administration will lower it even further, possibly to a life threatening level.


This condition may occur if your pet is not getting food on time, not getting an adequate amount of food, is too active, or has its insulin peak at an unexpected time. Signs of hypoglycemia range from weakness and tremors to seizures and death. If you notice any of these signs in your pet, give 1-2 tsp. corn syrup orally.

Corn syrup is an excellent source of glucose and is rapidly absorbed. If your pet is unable to swallow the syrup because it is seizing, etc. carefully rub the syrup on the gums. Please be careful when doing so, it is very easy to get bit in this situation. If any of these signs occur, please call the hospital as your pet will need an examination and have its blood glucose levels assessed immediately.


In the past, monitoring glucose in the animal’s urine was used to adjust insulin dosages. New studies have shown that this is unreliable. It is now recommended that blood sugar levels be checked 5-10 days after insulin injections are initiated and if any changes are noted in your pet’s appetite, urination, water consumption or attitude. Typically, 4 to 6 samples are taken at 2 hour intervals to accurately assess the peaks and troughs of your pet’s blood glucose. This will help us determine if a change in insulin dosage is necessary. These steps are repeated until your pet is adequately regulated.

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