Facts About Pets With Diabetes

  • Almost all dogs with diabetes have type 1 diabetes (autoimmune-mediated: having nothing to do with weight) They do not get type 2.
  • As in people with type 1 diabetes (the kind that often kids get), dogs will need insulin injections for survival, even when not eating.
  • Oral medication, changing diet (or "natural supplements") will not be effective in a dog.
  • Weight gain does NOT cause diabetes in dogs, and weight loss will NOT cure it.
  • The most serious complications in dogs are hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).
  • Restricting calories or increasing activity to promote weight loss can increase the risk of both hypoglycemia and DKA.
  • Changing the diet can cause GI upset that can make it difficult to control sugar, especially when newly diagnosed.
  • The most important thing to control sugar in a dog is to have a consistent food intake and insulin administration.
  • The most common long-term complication in dogs is cataracts (they do not have time to clog arteries and cause heart attack, etc.).
  • Pets need a glucose meter that is calibrated for pets (Alpha-Trax 2 is one example made by Abbott). Alpha Trax 2 is much better than Alpha Trax.
  • It is extremely important to be sure dogs with diabetes have access to clean, fresh water at all times. When blood sugar is high, the body sends the sugar out in the urine (causing lots of urine) Then they get thirsty to replace the water lost. Restricting water in an attempt to decrease urination will make severe dehydration very likely.
  • Human NPH insulin is the most common insulin used for dogs., given twice daily with two meals 12 hours apart.
  • Vetsulin is also available (it is U-40, meaning that there are 40 units per ml instead of the more common U-100 in most human insulin) It is important to know that U-40 insulin syringes are needed to give Vetsulin (otherwise, dosages given may be much different than intended).

Cats can get type 1 or type 2, and if they have type 2, diabetes can sometimes be treated with diet/exercise.


Nicky was diagnosed with diabetes at about 6-7 years old and lived with diabetes for 5-6 years. He was happy and playful, and never lost vision. He did not mind getting his blood sugar checked or getting his insulin. He ate the same food he did before he got diabetes.


Hunter was diagnosed with diabetes at about age 6 and has had diabetes for about a year. He is doing well and enjoys life. Hunter has a lot of food allergies so also continues on the same food he was eating before being diagnosed with diabetes. Hunter has been able to take advantage of newer technologies such as wearing a glucose sensor (which provides invaluable information about glucose control.