What Causes Diabetes in Dogs and Cats?

Just as humans can be diagnosed with diabetes, so can our beloved pets! Diabetes is caused by insulin deficiency, in some cases the pancreas does not produce any or enough insulin, or the body cannot process insulin properly.

The condition is fairly common, with an estimated 1 in 100 dogs over the age of 12 developing it, and approximately 1 in 50 to 1 in 500 cats. It is more common in male cats and in female dogs.

There are certain conditions that put dogs and cats at higher risk of developing diabetes.

The causes of diabetes in pets include:

  • Age: diabetes can occur in cats and dogs at any age, but it most often develops in pets during middle- or senior-age. If diabetes occurs in young animals, it likely means that the issue is genetic.
  • Obesity: obesity can lead to insulin resistance, which can contribute to the development of diabetes.
  • Breed: certain breeds of dogs and cats experience higher rates of diabetes. For dogs, this includes toy poodles, terriers, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, and golden retrievers. For cats, this includes the Burmese and Siamese breeds.

Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs and Cats

If your dog or cat is diagnosed with diabetes, learning how to properly manage the disease is vital to keeping your pet healthy. The only way to know for certain whether your pet has diabetes is a diagnosis from a licensed veterinarian.

If you notice the following symptoms, it’s recommended to take your pet for a check up:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Constant hunger
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Change in coat
  • Increased sleeping or loss of energy

Preventing Diabetes in Dogs and Cats

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to prevent diabetes in dogs and cats. To ensure that your pets stay healthy and free of a preventable diabetes diagnosis, be sure that they:

  1. Maintain an active lifestyle: obesity is one of the highest risk factors in pets for developing diabetes. Regular exercise helps reduce the chance of weight gain and control blood sugar levels, just like it does in humans. If your dog or cat is already obese, discuss a weight loss regimen with your vet.
  2. Eat a healthy diet: quality food also plays a role in maintaining stable blood sugar levels, thus preventing diabetes. The healthiest foods for cats and dogs are high in protein and fat, and low in carbohydrates. It is also important not to overfeed your pets, and that includes avoiding giving them too many “human foods” and treats. If you do give your dog human food, stick to safe fruits and vegetables.
  3. Schedule regular checkups: the best way to prevent diabetes is to regularly take your pet to the veterinarian. Some diseases, like Cushing’s disease and pancreatitis in dogs, can increase your pet’s risk of diabetes. With regular checkups, your vet can recommend a healthy management regimen. If you notice any changes in your pet’s health, including any of the symptoms of diabetes in cats and dogs, schedule an appointment.
  4. Get spayed (female dogs): female dogs are at higher risk of developing diabetes if they are not spayed. After giving birth or going through a heat cycle, levels of progesterone surge, which can increase the risk of diabetes. Getting your dog spayed can also decrease the risk of developing other conditions, such as pyometra and high blood sugar levels.
Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.