November: Pet Diabetes Month

Did you know that pets can have diabetes just like humans? It is estimated that one in 300 adult dogs and one in 230 cats in the U.S. have diabetes. But so many pet parents aren’t even aware of this disease in their dog or cat until it’s too late. To raise awareness, November has been designated as Pet Diabetes Month. While diabetes cannot be cured, with proper treatment and monitoring, pets can still live a long, happy life. A friend of mine at The Hipster Hound daycare was recently diagnosed with diabetes, so I wanted to do some research about the disease in honor of him and this month.

What is Pet Diabetes?
Pets with diabetes cannot produce or utilize insulin properly, preventing the conversion of food to energy. Without the conversion to energy, extra sugar left in the blood leads to lethargy and other health problems. In veterinary medicine, there are two types of diabetes mellitus: Type I DM and Type II DM.

Type I DM: when the body doesn’t make enough insulin (which is a hormone that is normally produced from the pancreas), and requires life-long insulin therapy (delivered via a syringe twice a day). This is most commonly seen in dogs – in other words, once a dog becomes a diabetic, he or she is diabetic for life.

Type II DM: when the body has some insulin being produced from the pancreas, but it is an inadequate amount or something is interfering with its ability to be used by the body. This is most commonly seen in cats and can be transient. In other words, if your cat has recently been diagnosed with Type II DM, he or she may only need insulin injections (via a syringe twice a day) for a few to several months, not necessarily for life.

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 immediately. 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 Diabetic Pets
Dogs and cats with diabetes usually require lifelong treatment with special diets, a good fitness regimen, and specifically in dogs, daily insulin injections. The key to managing diabetic pets is to keep your pet’s blood sugar near normal levels and avoid too-high or too-low levels that can be life-threatening. A treatment that works for one pet might not work as well for another pet, and patience is important as you and your pet adjust to the new diet and medications. Management of your diabetic pet may include some or all of the following:


  • A high-fiber diet is often recommended.
  • Give twice daily insulin injections as instructed by your veterinarian and at the appropriate times.
  • 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.
  • Give twice daily insulin injections as instructed by your veterinarian and at the appropriate times.
  • 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.

The humans at The Hipster Hound have extensive experience administering insulin to my doggy friends with diabetes when they come to board. It looks like it would hurt to get those shots, but my friends say it's not that bad, and the humans know to rotate which hip or shoulder they do the injection so they don't get sore.

In the end, the most important part to managing your diabetes is to work endlessly with your veterinarian on a regimen to ensure that you can live a wonderful, normal life with your favorite humans!


Rex, The Original Hipster Hound

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