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Diabetes in Dogs and Cats: Everything You Need to Know

8 min read

How is Diabetes Diagnosed in Dogs and Cats?


An initial diagnosis of diabetes does not require special testing outside of standard bloodwork and urinalysis. The main criterion in blood testing is an elevated blood glucose, though other abnormalities are also common. A urinalysis is also highly recommended as the presence of glucose in the urine is one of the hallmarks of diabetes.


Additional tests, such as urine culture to check for urinary tract infections, thyroid testing, and/or x-rays, are also commonly ordered to help gain a thorough picture of the pet’s current state of health.


Because diabetes affects every pet differently, and because some pets are more severely ill at the time of diagnosis than others, an accurate assessment is necessary so that your veterinarian can provide the most effective and timely treatment.


How is Diabetes Treated in Dogs and Cats?


In pets with clinical signs of disease, insulin injections are the mainstay of treatment for both dogs and cats. In cats, glargine and PZI are the insulins most commonly used. In dogs, Lente, NPH, and Vetsulin insulins are the first line insulins used in treatment. Each has its pros and cons in terms of how long it lasts in the bloodstream, how easy it is for owners to obtain, and reasonable cost. For those reasons, the most current American Animal Hospital Association Diabetes Management Guidelines suggest multiple options so that veterinarians and owners can select the best insulin for the pet as a team.


While many owners of a newly diagnosed diabetic worry about administering the injections, most adjust quickly. Insulin injections are given twice a day, timed with a meal, and because of the tiny needle size and volume administered, even the most reticent owners learn quickly that pets don’t seem to mind the shots.


How Quickly Do Pets with Diabetes Improve?


Managing a pet’s blood sugar is both an art and a science. Determining the proper insulin dose does not often happen right away; it can take some time before you and your vet arrive at the right amount of insulin. Many factors, such as stress and illness, can cause variances in blood sugar from day to day, so owners who are attempting to monitor their pets’ blood glucose may find it very confusing, especially in the beginning.


Your veterinarian may suggest a glucose curve—that is, testing blood glucose over the course of a day to make sure the prescribed insulin is properly managing the body’s blood sugar. Some veterinarians also monitor fructosamine, a value obtained from a single blood test that gives a “big picture” look at how the blood glucose has been doing over a several week period.


Next: What Role Does Diet Play in Diabetes Management for Pets?