Diabetes in Pets

Being overweight is a risk factor for developing diabetes

Diabetes is one of the more common hormonal disorders seen in feline and canine medicine. Symptoms of diabetes usually include some combination of the following symptoms: Increased thirst/urination (with sometimes inappropriate urination), as well as increased appetite in conjunction with usually weight loss. Risk factors for diabetes include particularly overweight pets, and especially those pets on too high a processed carbohydrate rich dry diet.

While diabetes may occur in pets of any age, it is most commonly seen in middle-aged and older animals. Diagnosis is usually made through a combination of blood work documenting a high blood sugar, as well as elevated sugar measured on a urine analysis. While an occasional pet may be able to be controlled through oral medication, most diabetic animals will typically need some form of injectable insulin in order to lower blood sugar levels and control symptoms. There are many insulin formulations on the market today, including Humulin N, as well as Protamine zinc insulin, which are favorites amongst many veterinarians.

Typically vets will measure serial blood sugars throughout the day periodically to make sure that diabetes control is adequate. While it is always ideal to maintain sugars between 100 and 250, in many cases we simply hope to stabilize symptoms, as well as the weight of the animal. We will also often recommend low-carbohydrate diets. Although many veterinarians will recommend processed prescription diets, I prefer natural ones such as Wysong Epigen or diets such as Evo by Natura.  In the ideal situation, I even prefer that animal guardians consider proper home-made diets, which I find best control the symptoms.

Prognosis for diabetes is usually excellent for control, but rare for cure of the disease, except in certain cats who sometimes will spontaneously resolve on their own. Pets must be monitored closely for the development of diabetic complications, including secondary urinary and other infections which often need to be managed in order to optimally control the disease.

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9 Comments

  1. Don’t forget a lot of pets are well managed simply by putting them on a species appropriate diet. Getting your cat’s diabetes under control only by going to the vets is tricky because a lot of cats suffer from stress while at the vet and that naturally increases blood sugars. If a vet makes a recommendation on an insulin dose based on those stressed out numbers it could cause problems. Learning to test the kitty at home with a regular ol blood glucose meter is a valuable tool for helping a pet owner have some control over this disease.

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    I agree with you Connie. Species appropriate diets, preferably a raw meat based diets are actually best, such as those recommended in the book The Natural Cat by Anitra Frazier, or Dr Pitcairns guide to Natural Health by Richard Pitcairn, DVM, phd. If this is not possible, then eliminating processed carbohydrate based dry foods, and feeding natural canned diets like pet guard, wysong or halo is recommended. Very often cats will have their insulin needs drastically reduced and even eliminated in some cases by appropriate nutritional management.

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  4. Remission does happen now quite often. Many cats have gone into remission with blood glucose being well controlled with a good insulin, along with a low carb wet diet, and also home monitoring is very helpful to keep the BG in a good range to help the pancreas rest and heal. Many on the FDMB (the feline diabetes message board) have had much success using gentler, longer-lasting human insulins like Lantus and Levemir, or there is vet-specific Prozinc. My cat went into remission after a couple years on PZI-Vet (was discontinued – I’m sure you know), low carb food and I also home-tested several times a day.

    The FDMB is a great resource. They also have insulin support groups which are very helpful. http://felinediabetes.com/FDMB/index.php

  5. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 28, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Hi Jenny: Thanks for sharing. The low carb wet food diets are indeed important. I find home made meat based diets as described in the book The Natural Cat By Anitra Frazier also excellent resources. Important not to over stimulate the immune system also through un-necessary vaccinations and overuse of pesticides. Such factors can also trigger diabetes in susceptible cats.

  6. My feline was most recently diagnosed with diabetes and is on leant us 2units in am and 2 units in pm. He also suffers from constipation and is on MiraLax and drinks a lot of water. His diet is moist food one can in am and one in pm along with turkey cold cut as a snack. He now seems to be more constipated any suggestions on what canned moist food is good for his diet are fish content moist foods better than chicken or turkey? Please help!

  7. My feline was most recently diagnosed with diabetes and is on lantus 2units in am and 2 units in pm. He also suffers from constipation and is on MiraLax and drinks a lot of water. His diet is moist food one can in am and one in pm along with turkey cold cut as a snack. He now seems to be more constipated any suggestions on what canned moist food is good for his diet are fish content moist foods better than chicken or turkey? Please help!

  8. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 9, 2014 at 1:41 am

    I prefer all natural canned diets like pet guard, which you can find on line. Also home diets as described in book the NAtural cat by Anitra frazier are much better also than that in my opinion.

  9. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 9, 2014 at 1:41 am

    Answered previously

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