How To Care For A Diabetic Pet

You may have not known that your dog or cat could even get diabetes. But they can, and veterinarians are seeing more and more of it due to diet and sedentary lifestyles in our dogs and cats.

The good news is, early detection means diabetes is treatable. However, like many diseases, it can require some serious lifestyle changes.


First, What is Diabetes?

Just like in humans, diabetes mellitus in pets means your dog or cat’s body is unable to produce insulin. Therefore, "the body cannot convert glucose, or sugar, into energy," as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) explains. "This creates toxic compounds called ketones that, if left untreated, can result in serious illness or death." Managing diabetes in pets usually requires the same techniques as in humans: insulin dosing, special diets, and plenty of exercise.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” diabetic treatment that works for all pets. As AAHA says, “As different etiologies become better understood, treatment can be more specifically tailored to the individual patient. Treatment that is more specific to the underlying etiology will presumably lead to better control of clinical signs of DM and possibly increase remission rates.”

Photo of several dogs of the same size

All of this means, if your dog or cat is diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll work closely with your veterinarian to create a new healthy lifestyle for your pet and monitor it. Your pet will require strict meal times and a daily exercise regimen. You'll also learn about providing a daily insulin regimen, if needed.


How to Care for Diabetic Dogs

Fortunately, dogs can enjoy a high quality of life if you manage their diabetes well. Part of that management requires lifestyle changes in the diet and exercise realm. Most veterinarians will recommend a high-fiber, low carb diet for your dog because a high-fiber diet will keep your pet full without packing on the calories.

Your veterinarian will probably recommend an increased exercise schedule, too. Depending on your dog’s age and overall health, you and your veterinary team will be able to determine if one longer walk or several shorter walks throughout the day would be better for his health.

You may also learn how to test your dog’s blood sugar, and you'll probably learn to give insulin injections since most diabetic dogs require them daily. (Don't worry - insulin injections are easier than they sound!) It’s all very doable.


How to Care for Diabetic Cats

Managing diabetes in cats can be more challenging because cats are often more finicky than dogs. Diet-wise, your veterinarian will likely recommend a high-protein, low carb diet because protein keeps your cat full.

Yes, your cat needs exercise, though you may not be likely to put Fluffy on a leash and take a walk - though if you want to try, check out our guide here. Alternate ways to get your cat moving include playing "chase" or "pounce" with a feather toy. If your cat likes catnip, try offering toys stuffed with it. Know that while kittens are happy to entertain themselves, adult cats will usually require you to interact with them. Every cat is different, but most will enjoy a good play session once you figure out what they like.

Photo of cat playing with a cat toy

Besides diet and exercise, you may also learn how to test your cat’s blood sugar at home, and, like dogs, you'll likely learn to give insulin injections. There are some oral medications that may work as well. You’ll veterinarian will discuss appropriate options with you.


Managing diabetes requires monitoring and scheduling. You’ll want to monitor your pet’s diet and make sure they have a normal appetite because if they stop eating, that can mean a dangerous drop in blood sugar. You’ll need to maintain a regular meal schedule and check your pet’s glucose levels regularly (or have them checked regularly).

It’s typical to schedule regular visits to your veterinarian (likely every 3-4 months) for checkups and bloodwork to ensure the appropriate amounts of insuline are being given and to readjust as needed.

If you need to schedule one of those appointments, or if you have any questions about your pet's health, please contact us!


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