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5 Warning Signs of Diabetes in Dogs and Cats

Catch these early to get your four-legged friend the treatment they need.

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It comes as a surprise to a lot of people that cats and dogs can get diabetes. Just like humans, dogs and cats (and all mammals) produce insulin in the body to manage glucose in the bloodstream, so these species can all develop diabetes when something goes wrong.

In a healthy mammal, glucose (also called blood sugar) is a simple sugar that provides the main source of energy. When there’s too much glucose in the bloodstream (hyperglycemia) or too little (hypoglycemia), the organism can experience dangerous health effects. To prevent that, it’s the job of insulin to regulate those blood sugar levels. (Learn more about how high and low blood sugar affects humans.)

But when insulin isn’t working right, glucose levels can get out of control and lead to diabetes. Like with humans, dogs and cats can get one of two types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas doesn’t create insulin, and type 2 diabetes is when the body no longer uses insulin properly (a state known as insulin resistance).

In both of these instances, the insulin problem allows blood glucose levels to increase to unhealthy levels. However, the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes in dogs and cats is not as clear-cut as it is for humans. 

Diabetes Symptoms to Look For 

Your pet can’t tell you what they’re feeling, so it’s up to you to spot the signs of diabetes. If your pet develops diabetes, you might notice the following symptoms, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation: 

  • Drinking a lot more water than usual
  • Urinating excessively
  • A lack of appetite and/or weight loss
  • Repeated infections, such as on the skin or in the urinary tract
  • And cloudy eyes (for dogs).

Visit your veterinarian immediately if you notice these symptoms. Catching diabetes in dogs and cats early can prevent complications of diabetes and progression of the disease, as well as improve treatment outcomes. Although diabetes in any mammal cannot be cured, it can be managed.

Having diabetes can be difficult for both you and your pet, so helping your pet live an active and healthy life can help reduce the chances of developing diabetes. Check out these nutrition tips for healthy dogs, and find out the best nutrition tips for cats here.