Does My Pet Have Diabetes?

The clinical signs of diabetes can vary from pet to pet.


Diabetes mellitus is a condition that occurs when the body cannot effectively move glucose, or blood sugar, into cells. This results in too much glucose in the blood and not enough glucose in the cells. Without sufficient amounts of glucose, which the body needs for energy, cells cannot function properly. The body must therefore get energy from other sources, such as muscles and fat. This can result in weight loss, muscle wasting or lethargy.

While diabetes can be a serious health condition, it is not a death sentence if treated. Proper management, including at-home blood glucose monitoring with AlphaTRAK, can help your pet live an active and happy life with diabetes.


Glucose is an energy source for the body. Glucose is sugar that is in the blood and comes from food. Every time your dog or cat eats, food is broken down into nutrients that are absorbed by the body. Glucose is one of these essential nutrients. Tissue cells use glucose as a source of energy, or fuel, to function.


Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose to enter tissue cells. As glucose enters the bloodstream, the pancreas is triggered to produce insulin. In a healthy pet, insulin attaches itself to receptors on the cell and acts as a key to allow the glucose to enter the cell and be used for energy. In diabetic pets, like diabetic humans, either the insulin does not bind properly with cell receptors or the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Therefore, cells do not respond to insulin properly, causing glucose to build up in the blood stream.


Type 1 Diabetes

Occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Most common in dogs.

Type 2 Diabetes

Occurs when the pancreas produces enough insulin, but the cells do not properly respond to insulin. Most common in cats.


The goal of diabetes treatment is to control the amount of glucose in the blood in order to reduce diabetes symptoms and help minimize or prevent complications. You and your veterinarian will work together to build a diabetes treatment plan that suits the needs of you and your pet, which may include several or all of these treatment protocols:

Blood Glucose Monitoring

Monitoring your diabetic pet's blood glucose provides your veterinarian with data he or she needs to better manage your pet's diabetes treatment plan. Typically, your veterinarian will have you take several readings over a specified time frame. These readings, together, are used to make a blood glucose curve, which gives a more complete picture of glucose levels and insulin activity over time. At-home testing reduces the stress on your pet which can come with clinic visits, and helps to minimize or avoid emergency room expenses and long-term diabetes complications.

Insulin Injections

Your veterinarian may prescribe insulin dosing, in which you administer insulin to your pet according to a specified dose and schedule. Your veterinarian will provide you with the specific insulin product, syringe type and dose instructions. If you must administer insulin, remember to keep track of the time and amount of insulin given and never adjust insulin doses unless instructed by the veterinarian.


Diets that eliminate or reduce sugar surges are usually preferred. Your veterinarian will prescribe a precise diet that is right for your pet. Feed as directed and keep track of the time and amount of food and water consumed.


Consistency in your pet's daily exercise schedule is very important. If activity level varies day to day, the amount of insulin your pet needs may vary. Check your pet's weight weekly.

With consistent management, diabetes should have minimal impact on you and your pet's daily routines, and can often be managed by friends, family or kennel staff if you are away from your pet.

In cats, tight blood glucose control in the early stages of diabetes may also improve the chances of diabetic remission, in which the cat returns to a non-diabetic state.3

Don't forget, you are not alone. It is estimated that 1 in 230 cats and 1 in 308 dogs are diagnosed with diabetes.4,5 Diabetic Pet Connection is a free program that provides information on pet diabetes and how to manage it.


Fatigue or Weakness

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Acting sluggish or less playful
  • Appearing sick or not feeling well
  • Poor body or coat condition

Frequent Urination

  • Asking to go out more
  • Having accidents in the house
  • Litter box requires more frequent changing

Excessive Thirst

  • Drinking water out of the faucet or toilet
  • Water bowl requires more frequent refilling

Increased Hunger

  • Eating more but has not gained weight

Our diabetic pet connection program provides information on PET DIABETES AND HOW TO MANAGE IT. When you join, you'll receive:

  • A Veterinarian Discussion Guide to help you get the most from your visits with your veterinarian
  • Ongoing emails with information about diabetes in dogs and cats and help monitoring pet blood glucose at home


NOTE: All fields are required


Certain risk factors increase the chances of a pet getting diabetes. If your pet has one or more of these risk factors, ask your veterinarian about diabetes testing.

Risk factors in dogs

  • Middle to older age1 (about 5 years old or more)
  • Unspayed female6

Breeds that commonly develop diabetes1

  • Australian terrier
  • Bichon frise
  • Cairn terrier
  • Fox terrier
  • Keeshond
  • Lhasa apso
  • Miniature poodle
  • Miniature schnauzer
  • Samoyed
  • Spitz
  • Toy poodle
  • Yorkshire terrier

Risk factors in cats

  • Older age
  • Neutered male
  • Obesity
  • Indoor lifestyle or physical inactivity

Breed that commonly develops diabetes2

  • Burmese


1. Nelson RW. Canine diabetes mellitus. In Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC, eds. Textbook of veterinary internal medicine, 7th ed. St. Louis: Saunders-Elsevier; 2010; 1782-1796.

2. Reusch, C. Feline diabetes mellitus. In Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC, eds. Textbook of veterinary internal medicine, 7th ed. St. Louis: Saunders-Elsevier; 2010: 1796-1816.

3. Gottlieb S and Rand JS. Remission in cats including predictors and risk factors. Vet Clin Small Anim 2013;43:245-249.

4. Mccann TM, Simpson KE, Shaw DJ, et al. Feline diabetes mellitus in the UK: The prevalence within an insured cat population and a questionnaire-based putative risk factor analysis. J Feline Med Surg 2007;9:289-299.

5.Catchpole B, Ristic JM, Fleeman lM, Davison LJ. Canine diabetes mellitus; can old dogs teach us new tricks? Diabetologia 2005;48:1948-1956.

6. Rand J, Freeman L, Farrow H Canine and feline diabetes mellitus: Nature or nurture? J Nutr Aug 2004.