Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs & Cats

Diabetes mellitus is a common disease in dogs and cats and its incidence is increasing, potentially due to an increase in obesity in both species.

Learn more about animal diabetes and how the disease can be treated here.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, also called diabetes, is a metabolic disorder of carbohydrate metabolism that affects the concentration of glucose, or sugar in the blood. Diabetes occurs when the body makes too little insulin, stops producing it completely, or doesn’t utilise insulin properly which prevents the conversion of food to energy.

The Lock & Key Principle

The transport of certain substances from the blood into the cells occurs according to the lock-and-key principle. Each hormone has its own structure that can only connect with certain cells, the target cells, and trigger the corresponding metabolic process.

However, if there is not enough insulin or if there is resistance to the hormone, bonds cannot form and too much sugar remains in the blood. Consequently, blood sugar levels are too high, resulting in hyperglycaemia.


  • Being overweight / obese
  • Advanced age
  • Loss of function of the ß-cells, due to deposits of amyloid in the pancreas
  • Neutered male cats
  • Little exercise
Diabetes in Dogs & Cats

Forms of Diabetes

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune metabolic disorder in which the ß-cells of the pancreas function only partially or not at all. There is too little insulin and glucose cannot be removed from the blood. This form is not curable and requires not only lifelong treatment but also regular monitoring of blood sugar levels and a healthy diet.

Dogs are almost exclusively affected by this form of diabetes.

Type 2

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas continues to produce insulin, but an insulin resistance builds up. Usually, this form begins insidiously and the animal shows only mild or no symptoms. As the body reacts to an increased blood sugar level with an increased production of insulin, the insulin-producing cells are overloaded in the long term. Production is stopped and ultimately leads to an insulin deficiency.

In this case, if detected early and treated with the help of a proper diet or tablets, there is a chance that the diabetes can be reversed - however,  this is not guaranteed. 


Case History

  • Polyuria (increased urination)
  • Polydipsia (increased thirst)
  • Polyphagia (increased hunger)
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue and weakness 


  • Elevated glucose and fructosamine levels in the blood
  • Elevated AP, ALT, triglycerides and cholesterol levels
  • Increased glucose in urine
  • Fatty liver


A final diagnosis can only be made by a veterinarian. They can provide safe and reliable results by means of various blood and urine tests.

An elevated blood glucose level alone cannot provide information about whether diabetes is present. Since cats in particular are very susceptible to stress, a visit to the vet or a car journey is often enough to reach suspicious blood glucose levels. However, this is neither a cause for concern nor does it require treatment with insulin. In such cases, once stress levels decrease, the blood glucose levels return to the normal ranges.

Important Parameters

Glucose is the most important simple sugar in carbohydrate metabolism and is of central importance for the energy balance of dogs and cats.

Fructosamine is an amino sugar of fructose and is formed by the binding of sugar to proteins. The fructosamine value shows the amount of glycated serum proteins, i.e. how many carbohydrates have formed chemical bonds with certain blood proteins. When blood sugar levels are high, many of these compounds are present.

Ketones (acetones) are breakdown products of fat metabolism that are used by the cells to meet energy needs. In the case of a severe insulin deficiency, there is an uninhibited breakdown of fat and consequently also a correspondingly high ketone production. Too many ketone bodies in the blood cause hyperacidity.

The body dries out and loses an extremely large amount of electrolytes through the urine. Therefore, the detection of ketone bodies in the blood as well as in the urine is an indispensable parameter in the diagnosis of diabetes.

Normal Range

Glucose Fruktosamine Ketones
Cats 3.05 - 6.1 mmol/l 374 µmol

0.0 - 0.5 mmol/l

Dogs 3.1 - 6.9 mmol/l 340 µmol 0.0 - 0.5 mmol/l


Regular and reliable therapy is the basic prerequisite for avoiding complications and long-term consequences that can arise from diabetes mellitus.

Insulin Therapy

Most diabetic cats and dogs need to be treated with insulin to continue living a normal life. Depending on the severity of the diabetes, the therapy is individually adapted to each animal.


As with humans, being overweight is a significant risk factor for developing diabetes. Since being overweight leads to poorer insulin action.

Affected dogs and cats should be fed according to a strict feeding plan. Special food for diabetics with low carbohydrate and fat content and easily digestible high-quality proteins is recommended.

Cats and dogs that are too thin can also be fed more often during the day or even have free access to food.

Blood glucose measurement can be carried out easily at home. Blood glucose meters for animals are user-friendly and offer reliable measurement results. In our shop you may purchase blood glucose meters, corresponding test strips and other accessories, such as lancing devices, lancets and control solutions.


Especially at the beginning of treatment, there is a risk of certain complications that can quickly become life-threatening if not treated. Should typical symptoms persist or worsen, or should new symptoms appear, it is of utmost importance to take quick action.


Ketoacidosis is a hyperacidity of the blood and occurs in animals that are not (well) monitored. It is triggered by the formation of ketone bodies and puts the animal in a life-threatening condition. If the following symptoms are present in addition to the typical symptoms of diabetes, acidosis is very likely to be present:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Breath smells of acetone
  • Vomiting
  • Apathy
  • Collapse

In such cases immediate treatment is necessary. The animal will be treated with infusions, electrolyte balancing and have short-acting insulin administered via a continuous drip. Once the acidosis is over, the treatment can be continued as for a normal diabetic.


Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) is caused by an overdose of insulin. This causes the blood glucose level to drop too low and leads to the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Staggering/falling over
  • Trembling
  • Collapse
  • Unconsciousness

Insulin should never be injected if these symptoms are present. If hypoglycaemia is definitely suspected, feed your animal and put some sugar solution in its mouth. To be on the safe side, however, you should still contact a veterinarian. If oral administration of the sugar solution is unsuccessful, there is the option of intravenous administration of a glucose solution.

Further Accessories for Diagnostics & Therapy

Becton Dickinson

BD Vacutainer EDTA Blood Collection T...

€ 35,49 net
€ 42,23 gross

Medi-Test Combi 10 VET

€ 32,29 net
€ 38,43 gross

Tourniquet Mini

€ 2,33 net
€ 2,77 gross
B. Braun Petzold

Vasofix Safety IV Catheter

from € 1,04 net
from € 1,24 gross
B. Braun Petzold

Intrafix SafeSet Infusion Set

from € 1,00 net
from € 1,19 gross
Serumwerk Bernburg

Glucose 5 Solution

€ 20,79 net
€ 24,74 gross
  • 5% discount for PD Plus members

  • Est. 2 day delivery to UK for only £23,85*

  • Preferred delivery date

  • Frequently Asked Questions

*All prices subject to VAT
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