Diagnosing and treating diabetes in pets


Your pet is drinking a ton, urinating more than usual and losing weight—could they have diabetes? While these classic symptoms may lead to suspicion, diagnosing diabetes in pets requires confirmation from your veterinarian by way of a few different tests. Here are some examples of diagnostics your pet may need:

  • Blood chemistry testing: This test measures the amount of glucose (sugar) in your pet’s blood and also screens for other diseases that can mimic diabetes, such as kidney or hormone disease.
  • Urinalysis: This test evaluates your pet’s urine for the presence of glucose, blood and other abnormalities.
  • Urine culture: This test uses a sample of your pet’s urine to determine if bacteria are present, indicating a urinary tract infection, which is a common problem of diabetic pets and can exacerbate the symptoms of diabetes if left untreated. 
  • Additional tests: Depending on your pet’s age, health status and symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend further tests to rule out other conditions that may have similar signs as diabetes. 

Once a diagnosis is made, your veterinarian will choose an appropriate individualized treatment plan for your pet, which typically includes:

  • Insulin: An injectable hormone that helps deliver glucose (energy) to the body’s tissues. Some insulins are prepared from animals while others are synthetic. There are also short-, intermediate- and long-acting insulins. Never change your pet’s insulin type or dose without your veterinarian’s guidance. 
  • Insulin syringes: Diabetic pets require a specific type of syringe for insulin administration. Pet owners will need to pay close attention to the size of the syringe that their veterinarian prescribes. In certain circumstances, an insulin pen might be recommended instead of syringes to deliver the insulin.
  • Diet and exercise recommendations: Proper feeding, nutrition and physical activity are essential for the diabetic pet. Many diabetic dogs benefit from a high-fiber diet, whereas diabetic cats may do well on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. 
  • Monitoring plan: Pet owners and veterinarians must work together to keep an eye on symptoms and determine how often tests should be performed. Some veterinarians may even advise owners to check their pet’s blood glucose with an at-home monitoring kit.

Once you and your veterinarian establish a suitable plan, prepare to check in often. Treating and caring for a diabetic pet can take time and some trial and error—especially in the early phases—but the effort is well worth it. Your pet may require lifelong treatment, but they’ll give you a lifetime of love in return. 


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