Pet Diabetes

Photo by Melissa Weise, Source: Wikimedia Commons

November is Pet Diabetes Month. Here at PetCorps, we strive to provide relevant information that helps to improve the life of people and pets. Therefore, we are celebrating the first week of November by sharing some information we learned about diabetes in pets.

As you may well know, diabetes in humans is rising in numbers every year. While there is not a cure for diabetes, there are treatment options available to prolong the lives of those living with diabetes.

According to Shape (2011), diabetes rose 32 percent in dogs and 16 percent in cats from 2006 to 2011 based on a report from Banfield Pet Hospital.

Diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to use glucose (Fradkin and Chamberlain 2015). In a healthy animal, glucose serves as the main food for cells. After an animal eats, glucose from metabolized food enters the blood stream. The pancreas detects the elevated glucose levels in the blood and releases the hormone insulin. Insulin acts as a key that unlocks the door to the cells so that glucose can pass through. In a diabetic animal, either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the insulin is unable to clear all of the glucose out of the bloodstream. The result is a buildup of glucose in the blood.

Because glucose is the main food for cells, the cells are starving when the glucose cannot get through the cellular membrane. The buildup of glucose causes excessive thirst, urination, fatigue, weight loss, and blurred vision.

Left untreated, diabetes could result in tissue damage, blindness, heart failure, kidney failure, or in worst cases, death.

Frederick Grant Banting and Charles H. Best succeeded in extracting insulin from the pancreas of dogs in 1922. Their research found that the islets of Langerhans produced a fluid that when extracted and injected into diabetic dogs, significantly improved the life of the animals. Later research refined the process and now insulin injections are helpful in treating and prolonging the life of diabetes patients.

An interesting point I uncovered in researching the topic of pet diabetes is how diabetes affects dogs and cats differently. In humans, you may be aware of Type I and Type II diabetes. In dogs, diabetes is insulin-dependent. In cats, diabetes is insulin-nondependent. What does this mean for your pets? Well, if you have a diabetic dog, standard treatment is to give subcutaneous insulin injections every day for the rest of your dog’s life. If you have a diabetic cat, simple lifestyle changes such as changing your cat’s diet and increasing exercise will improve your cat’s overall health.

STEP BY STEP: Administering Subcutaneous Injections to Your Dog

Some people are nervous about giving their dog an injection. In a future post, I will demonstrate how to administer a subcutaneous injection on a dog but for now, here are the steps to follow:

1. Select a needle and syringe. (Skip steps 2 and 3 if using prefilled syringes).

2. Clean the cap of the insulin bottle with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.

3. Invert the bottle and insert the needle through the stopper. Pull back on the plunger to withdraw the exact number of units prescribed for your dog.

4. Have someone restrain your dog.

5. Lightly pinch an area of skin and pull up to create a “tent.” It will look like an inverted V.

6. Swiftly insert the needle at the base of the tent.

7. Pull back on the plunger to verify that you are not in a blood vessel. You should feel some negative pressure on the plunger as you pull back. (You are not in a blood vessel if you do not see a flash of blood in the hub of the needle. If you do see blood, you will need to withdraw the needle and try a different location on the body.)

8. After verifying that you are not in a blood vessel, push forward on the plunger to inject the medicine.

9. Safely dispose of the needle and syringe using a sharps container.

Recommendations for Treating your Diabetic Cat

You can increase your cats physical activity by walking your cat (yes, you can teach a cat to walk on a leash). When it comes to feeding your cat, you will want to wean your cat off kibble mainly because kibble is high in carbohydrates. As obligate carnivores, cats do not require a large amount of carbohydrates in their diet (if any). Feed canned food because the moisture and texture of canned food is similar to what your cat would experience when hunting in the wild. Check with your veterinarian on recommendations for cooking food for your diabetic cat.

Here are three simple guidelines for selecting ingredients to feed your diabetic cat:

1. Avoid carbohydrates.

2. Choose high protein foods.

3. Add some fiber.

For more information, visit



Banting, Frederick Grant (1891–1941). (2015). Encyclopedia Americana. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from Grolier Online

Brooks, W. C. (2010-2015). Diabetes mellitis center. Retrieved November 2, 2015 from

Fradkin, J., & Chamberlain, J. (2015). Diabetes. The New Book of Knowledge. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from Grolier Online

The New Pet Epidemic. (2011). Shape, 31(2), 96.


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