November is Pet Diabetes month. Diabetes Mellitus is an endocrine disorder that can affect many mammals, including humans, cats and dogs. The pancreas is part of the endocrine system that produces insulin, a hormone which aids in the body’s absorption of glucose (sugar). When the pancreas isn’t working properly, it cannot produce enough insulin, which the body needs in order to regulate glucose in the body. An elevated blood sugar level is called hyperglycemia. The body needs glucose as a fuel to function correctly.


For a diabetic animal, the pancreas is producing little to no insulin. Even though there is a high level of glucose in the bloodstream, there isn’t enough insulin to glucose ratio. Due to a very limited amount of glucose/insulin being absorbed into the cells, the cells feel like they are starving. A message is then sent to the liver telling it that these cells need to be fed. The liver starts to break down fat and protein within the body to produce more glucose. It is during this process that weight loss occurs and a high level of glucose is found in the blood and urine.


Diabetes has been diagnosed in animals regardless of age, gender or breed. Animals that are overweight are at a higher risk for developing diabetes. The risk is increased with age as well (middle to senior age). Other risk factors include un-spayed female dogs and neutered male cats.


Common clinical signs include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination – with or without accidents in the home.
  • Losing weight, but eating the same amount or an increased amount of food.
  • Lethargy (sleeping more, less active)
  • Dogs developing cataracts (cloudy eyes) and/or blindness
  • Cats not wanting to groom themselves
  • Thin, dry, and dull hair coat
  • Some pets (cats mostly) develop an abnormal walk, especially in the hind end

Diabetes is diagnosed by the typical clinical signs, in addition to the presence of a persistently high level of glucose in the blood stream and the presence of glucose in the urine. Monitoring blood glucose levels aids the veterinarian in determining the proper type and amount of insulin needed to control diabetes. This may take a bit of time and may involve eliminating other concurrent disease processes.


Generally, diabetes can be controlled with twice daily insulin injections, which can be done at home. It may also be recommended to alter diet and exercise habits. For dogs, insulin injection treatments are life-long. Most cats will also need to be treated with insulin, but if caught early enough some cats can go into remission.


The goal of treatment is to stop the clinical signs, stabilize the animal’s weight, control blood sugar levels and prevent the development of any complications.


It is important for a diabetic animal to have a consistent feeding and medicating schedule. Remember, managing your pet’s diabetes will require some commitment and discipline, but the rewards are well worth it. Once Diabetes Mellitus is well-managed, and your pet doesn’t develop other health problems, your pet should have a normal life expectancy.


Diet is one of the most important components in managing your pet’s diabetes. A high-quality, consistent source of protein is an essential part of any diabetic diet. You, your family and your pet will have to adjust to some lifestyle changes once diabetes is diagnosed. There will be a two-part section to these changes: diet and maintenance.


Diet: The staff at Mountain View Veterinary Services will work with you to determine the best diet for your pet. This includes a safe weight-loss plan for your diabetic pet if needed. Cutting out treats is a necessary element in a diabetic diet.  In addition to cutting out treats, you must also discontinue giving people food to your pet. Most people food is already higher in sugars than what is essential for a pet’s nutritional needs.


Maintenance: It is crucial to set scheduled feeding times 7 days a week for your diabetic pet. It is best to feed your diabetic pet every 8 to 12 hours to minimize glucose spikes throughout the day. Even when your pet is at an ideal weight, it is vital to measure the amount of food they are getting at each meal. If your pet doesn’t eat well for 2 meals, it is critical to contact MVVS.


Another important thing to remember is that not all pet foods are made the same. Once our team of veterinarians, staff and pet parents find a type of pet food that is working well for your pet, it is imperative the diet stays the same. Despite different brands being made for a diabetic pet, there can be varying ingredients from one diet to the next that may alter a pet’s diabetic regulation.


If there are other pets in the home, you may need to adjust their diets and feeding schedules to assist the diabetic’s new lifestyle.


With a chronic condition like diabetes, it is important to stay in communication with your veterinary team. Regular checkups and monitoring can help identify changes in your pet’s condition and help you manage this disease successfully over your pet’s lifetime. A few tests that diabetic pets will need in their lifetime are glucose curves, annual complete blood panels, urinalysis, eye exams and Fructosamine level checks.


Keeping a log is a great way to better assist us with the care of your diabetic pet.


The chart below can help assist you if you perform glucose checks at home.

Call our hospital immediately at 717-477-8938, if you notice any signs or symptoms in the hypoglycemia (red) section.


At Home Care Supplies

It is highly recommended that every diabetic pet parent has a small container to keep supplies and phone numbers readily available. It is important that the container stays in the same area and that everyone who might be caring for the diabetic pet knows where this container is located.


Must have:




Nice to have:

·         Housebreaking pads or Depends pads

·         Insulin travel pack

·         Lancing device and/or lancets

·         Spare bottle of insulin

·         Large syringe (without needle) for Karo Syrup

·         Blood glucose meter

·         Insulin protector/case




There is a wonderful website with pet parent support group information from Merick Animal health.



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