“Pour Some Sugar On Me” or Diabetes in Pets

“Pour Some Sugar On Me” or Diabetes in Pets


Somebody's thirsty!

Somebody’s thirsty!

“My dog won’t stop drinking water,” says one client.  “My cat is peeing all over the house!” says another.  “My dog isn’t eating much; and he NEVER turns down food,” says yet another.  “Kitty vomits everyday and it’s been going on for a few weeks now,” is another statement I’ve heard.  So which disease is it?  Yes, you can name a bunch of diseases that sound like this.  This is where blood & urine tests are necessary to determine how the best way to help your pet is.


It’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of the one disease that made me the person I am today (but that’s a separate post).  This is why I’m choosing to start with diabetes mellitus as the first of the chronic or older age diseases.  However, there won’t be anyway to cover it all in this post so I’ll revisit it later with regards to certain sub-topics.  I’m also going to try to keep this easy to understand and not get into too much of the science behind it all.


Cats & dogs can both become diabetics and they can both present similarly.  Most patients will first be noted to be urinating more, especially with accidents in the house.  They will all also drink more and probably eat a little less.  Some astute owners will notice weight loss, especially if their cat was obese before as excessive weight is a risk factor for developing diabetes.  Other signs you might see can include dehydration, weakness, abnormal walking (specifically diabetic neuropathy), and a change in their breath.


Diabetics have either become resistant to the insulin the body produces or the pancreas stops producing insulin in sufficient quantities.  Insulin is necessary for the body to break down glucose in order for it be utilized by the body.  So why are these pets losing weight and urinating all over the place?  When the body can’t break down the glucose your body ingests or produces, it starts to utilize the fat and muscle tissue already there for energy and this leads to the dog peeing computerweight loss and muscle wasting you can see.  As the body becomes diabetic, the blood glucose levels will rise due to decreased uptake.  When it reaches a certain level, it will start dumping this extra glucose into the urine where this sugar sits in there and creates a nice breeding ground for bacteria creating a urinary tract infection.  Along with the increased water intake, this makes your pet urinate more.

blood test

To diagnose your cat or dog as diabetic, your vet will need to do a blood test to check for high levels of glucose.  We are also looking for changes in electrolytes and liver values.  Additionally, a urinalysis is recommended to check for an infection as well as ketones.  What are ketones you ask?  Ketones are the product we see in the urine from the body breaking down fat to use for energy but more is produced than can be used and this leads to an acidic state in the blood and leads to the increased urination.  This will cause some patients to become severely ill and present in a semi-comatose state, they may be jaundiced, have abdominal pain, or trouble breathing.  In my experience, I’ve seen more cats than dogs present this way.  A noticeable acetone smell may also be noted on their breath.


fat cat2Fortunately, many cats and dogs do not present to us in this advanced state and even if they are, they can be helped.  If there are no ketones in the urine, this is ideal in terms of treatment but still not always an easy fix.  This is the reason that having your pets’ blood tested at least once a year once they reach a senior age.  Early detection is the key to keeping your pets healthy and happy for many years.  So those are the basics of diabetes in cats & dogs.  I know I don’t have everything here but we could spend hours discussing all the intricacies of diabetes mellitus.  I’ll be discussing treatment in the next post so be sure to check back and in the meantime, share to help inform your friends and get your senior pets checked out in general!


Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

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1 Comment

  1. Ahhh…. the Dire Beasties. So many lessons learned, some of them in the hardest way. What we could not do for Zorro, we did for Shutterbug. It’s been 9 years since my Sugarcat crossed the Rainbow Bridge, but I still think of her every day. She was an easy diabetic, and that was lucky for her because I was a crazed, nervous wreck cat-mom when she was diagnosed (and if it hadn’t been for Zorro, I never would have recognized the symptoms).

    Thank goodness for a patient vet who was willing to explore all the options, put up with my anxiety, and wanted to work WITH me, rather than just putting her foot down and saying “I’m the vet, this is the way it’s going to be.” She trusted me to know my kitty and to give me things to do at home that would help Shutterbug and my pocketbook. She also was smart enough to realize that, the internet being what it was back then, her clients were going to try to suck up info, fool around with alternative treatments (some good, some not), and argue with her about the best way to handle it all.

    She actually listened and wrote down things that I found, including the FDMB’s video on home testing. She wanted to learn what other people were doing to treat their diabetic pets – because in the old days, a diagnosis like that was a sure short path to pet dumping or euthanasia. People didn’t want to take care of sick pets, even if it was easily treatable (expense aside – it was the time and trouble that most people didn’t want to commit to). Having a vet who cares and wants to help people keep their pets as part of their family as long as possible, with good quality of life, is just one of the things I am grateful for with modern vet med and the changed attitudes, in the last couple of decades, toward what having, keeping and caring for pets really means.

    It means a lot to me that you’re posting about diabetes and I know that you know how much I love that “my” vet (the other one – because you’re also “my” vet) was one of your mentors. I know all of your patients are special, but your sugar-patients are extra special to you 🙂 I hope other folks with a sugar cat or sugar dog will share their experiences with you! I know there are a whole bunch of them out there who, though they were only virtual friends, were so happy for you when you got accepted to vet school and spent many an hour online encouraging me through those first shots, finding inexpensive testing supplies, doing glucose curves to take to our vet visits… none of us ever have ever regretted our experiences with having a sugarcat.

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