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Our Pets and Diabetes

A puppy and kitten playing. Just like humans, our pets are not immune to diabetes.

How Diabetes Can Cause Serious Problems for our Pets

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide, but, unfortunately, it can also affect our pets. And just like in humans, it can be extremely dangerous for their health.

Diabetes can affect cats and dogs at any age. Dogs tend to be diagnosed between the ages of 7-10, and it often occurs more in female dogs than male ones. For cats, diabetes can happen between the ages of 9 and 13; it’s extremely rare for younger cats to have diabetes. The exact number is not fully known, but it is estimated that diabetes affects approximately 1 in every 300-500 dogs (roughly 1%) and 1 in every 200 cats (between 0.2%-1%). This number may not seem terribly high, but when you consider the millions of cats and dogs worldwide, it becomes a significant issue for pet owners to be aware of.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes prevents your pet’s body from being able to properly regulate their blood sugar levels, which can lead to a variety of health problems. The most common symptoms of diabetes in pets include increased thirst and urination, weight loss, increased appetite vomiting, muscle wasting, and poor coat quality, to name a few. However, these symptoms can also be caused by other health issues, so its important to take your pet to your Austin vet for a proper diagnosis.

In addition, pets with diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing other health problems such as heart disease and kidney disease. Diabetes can weaken the immune system and make it harder for pets to fight off infections, increasing their susceptibility to illnesses.

The most common types of diabetes in pets are Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is when the body cannot produce enough insulin, while Type 2 diabetes is when the body becomes resistant to insulin. Both types can have serious consequences for pets if left untreated. Dogs appear more likely to have Type 1, while cats are more likely to suffer from Type 2.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, occurs due to destruction of the beta cells of the pancreas and it appears primarily in dogs. This type is also referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes. Exogenous (external) insulin injections are used to replace the insulin that the pancreas can no longer able to produce for the body.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is also known as insulin-resistant or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, and is the most common form of diabetes in cats. The primary cause is a relative insulin deficiency. While a cat’s pancreas may be able to produce sufficient levels of insulin, the tissues cannot utilize it for glucose metabolism.

An Additional Danger: Diabetic Ketoacidosis

A major complication of diabetes in pets is the risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA occurs when there is not enough insulin in the body, causing high levels of ketones (glucose or sugar) to build up in the blood. This high blood sugar level leads to the breakdown of fat stores, producing ketones which can be toxic to the body.

DKA is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. If left untreated, it can quickly become life-threatening for your cat or dog.

Causes and Symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis

DKA will appear when there is a lack of insulin to regulate the body’s blood sugar levels. This can happen for several reasons, including insufficient or missed insulin injections, underlying infections, pancreatitis, and other concurrent illnesses.

In some cases, diabetic ketoacidosis may be the initial indication of diabetes in cats and dogs. Therefore, it’s essential to monitor your pet’s health regularly and watch out for any changes in behavior or symptoms.

The symptoms of DKA may vary. Some common signs include dehydration, excessive thirst and urination, weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, hypovolaemia (a type of shock due to decrease blood volume), and vomiting. You may also notice a sweet or fruity odor on your pet’s breath. In more severe cases, pets may experience difficulty breathing, seizures, and collapse.

Treatment and Prevention of Diabetic Ketoacidosis

The treatment for DKA depends on the severity of the condition. In most cases, pets will require hospitalization to receive intravenous fluids, proper insulin therapy, and other supportive care. This includes regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, ensuring your pet receives their insulin injections as prescribed, and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine. Failure to manage diabetes properly can result in a recurrence of DKA or other complications.

Diabetes Prevention for our Pets

The key factor in preventing diabetes is regular veterinary check-ups. Your veterinarian will be able to monitor your pet’s weight and detect any potential health issues early on. This can help prevent or manage diabetes before it becomes a more serious problem.

In addition to prevention, it is important to be aware of how to manage diabetes in our pets. This may include administering insulin injections, monitoring blood glucose levels, and making necessary adjustments to your pet’s diet and exercise routine. Your veterinarian will provide you with specific instructions on how to care for your pet with diabetes.

Treating Diabetes in our Pets

Treatment for diabetes in pets typically involves insulin injections and a special diet. You should closely monitor your pet’s blood sugar levels and work with your veterinarian to determine the proper dosage of insulin. Regular check-ups and blood tests are also necessary to ensure that your pet’s diabetes is under control.


One of the most common ways to treat diabetes in cats and dogs is through medication. The most typically prescribed medication is insulin injections which help to regulate the blood sugar levels in their bodies. Your veterinarian will help you to determine the right dosage and frequency of insulin injections, which may vary depending on the severity of their condition.

Diet and Exercise

To prevent your pet from developing diabetes, it’s essential to maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet. Proper diet and an active lifestyle can greatly reduce the risk of developing diabetes in cats and dogs.

Just like in humans, obesity is a risk factor for diabetes in pets. Any cat or dog can be affected if they are overweight or have a family history of the disease. Avoid overfeeding your pets and provide them with plenty of opportunities to stay physically active.

Pet owners should consult with their veterinarian to create a personalized meal plan for their diabetic pet that includes high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and low-fat content.

Alternative Therapies

Some pet owners may opt for alternative therapies to treat their diabetic pets. These can include herbal remedies, acupuncture, and traditional Chinese medicine. While these treatments may have shown positive results in some cases, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian before trying any alternative therapy. They will be able to provide guidance on the effectiveness and safety of these treatments for your specific pet.

Monitoring Diabetes in our Pets

Proper monitoring is key in managing diabetes in cats and dogs. Pet owners should regularly check their pet’s blood sugar levels to ensure they are within a healthy range. This can be done at home with a glucometer, or through regular visits to the veterinarian for blood tests. It’s also important to monitor your pet’s behavior and overall health, as any changes could indicate a need for adjustments in their treatment plan.

While there is currently no cure for diabetes in pets, it certainly can be managed with proper treatment and care. If you suspect your pet may have diabetes, it’s important to reach out to us at ATX Animal Clinic right away.

It’s crucial to be aware of the symptoms and risks associated with diabetes in pets and to seek proper treatment if your pet is diagnosed.