Pets And Diabetes

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves


The symptoms of diabetes in pets include an altered appetite, increased thirst and urination, weight loss, lethargy and depression. Fat pets are more likely to become diabetic. In about a quarter of the cases diabetes can be reversed by dieting. Diagnosis is a urine test. A vet will probably keep the pet for a couple of days while stabilising its condition.

What Is Involved?

The aim is a balance of eating, exercise and insulin. In many cases you will have to inject the insulin daily. Use a sterile needle and keep the insulin in the fridge with a fridge thermometer

You will also have to test your pet's urine daily with little strips of colour-changing paper. Sometimes the animals learn to co-operate about this.......

"The amazing thing is that when I go out into the garden with him, Thomas my diabetic cat knows his routine. I say "Thomas, wee wee" and he performs for me so that I can catch a specimen.." reports Thomas¹s owner.

You will probably have to feed the pet just before injecting then several hours later, when the insulin reaches its peak.  So you will have to establish regular routine, being back at home at key moments or getting somebody else to do it for you.

Ideally the pet should lead the same kind of life every day, ie take the same amount of exercise. A vet may recommend keeping a cat indoors all the time or allowing outside access only in a run.

Help From The Vet

She or he should teach you how to inject, (usually in the scruff of the neck), and test. 


You need to find kennels/catteries who take insulin dependant animals. Some vets will board the pet. Or take a UK holiday making sure the hotel can keep the insulin in a fridge for you. Pack it in an insulated box with an icepack. Check this against instructions on the packet.

Helpful Equipment for Cats

To help you test a cat's urine, you need a special litter tray with washable litter granules. The cat's urine passes through the litter granules (which can be washed and reused) and into a pan at the bottom of the loo. This will help with urine testing, just as long as only one cat is using the loo. Ask your vet about this, or see if your local pet shop can sell you one. You will probably have to order it.


The vet should advise on a diabetic diet. Pedigree and Hills Science Diet both make prescription diets. If your cat is reluctant to eat, and your vet says this is OK, try a slow changeover from familiar food to diabetic food over two or three weeks. Or try (having checked with vet) spiking the food with something like a very tiny bit of tuna (in water not oil) or tiny shreds of cooked chicken just to get the animal started. Or, if you are using tinned food, try heating the food to lukewarm. You will have to make sure your pet cannot get hold of any other food for example from neighbours, dustbins, fallen fruit, (for dogs), or scavenging on walks etc.

"I found it was essential to feed my cat five hours after the insulin injection. It was then that the insulin peaked. I got to learn when Catullus was suffering from too much insulin/too little food," reports Catullus's owner.

"He behaved oddly and once he became unconscious. Apart from that one time he was unconscious, when I took him to the vet, I would feed him about six Cat Love treats and within minutes he would perk up."

Occasionally diabetic cats when treated with insulin go into remission and temporarily no longer need insulin. But regular vet checks will be needed as sometimes this remission lasts for only a little time.

Weight Loss

If your pet is fat, this will help. But slim it down gradually with veterinary supervision. Vet¹s advice is essential. Occasionally the need for insulin diminishes after  weight loss in cats. There are healthy treats available from vets.

Knowing Your Pet

It will help if you are good at reading your pet's body language; changed behaviour may mean too much or too little insulin.  Like human diabetics, you will have to be ready to feed snacks if the pet is going hypo. Take biscuits or dextrose tablets on walks for dogs. You will need to read when your pet needs to go to the loo, and be there with the test strip! In warm weather you may need to reduce the daily insulin, particularly if your dog pants a lot.

Your Pet's Temperament

A friendly fairly docile pet will probably adapt to all this. A nervous or wild pet may not.


Keep a notebook, with details of the daily test and daily amount of insulin given. "At first I was told to ring the vet every day with the test results, and they would tell me how much insulin. After a bit, I felt I knew more than they did," says an owner who did this.

Help Available

The Disabled Animals Club. Membership secretary Maureen Day, 18 Ferney Rd, East Barnet, EN4 8LF.


Experimental work in the USA suggests that vanadate (vanadium salts) might help mildly diabetic cats. Talk to your vet about this.

Consult Diabetis Mellitus in the cat on or send an s.a.e. and small donation for it to Feline Advisory Bureau, Taeselbury, High St, Tisbury, SP3 6LD.

Fiber Formula Cat and Dog treats, from vets, may be OK for a diabetic pet ­ as long as they are fed in small quantities. They have no simple sugars. The cat treat is .9 of a calorie but you must check with your vet first.

Celia is the pet agony aunt at the Daily Telegraph and author of "One Hundred Ways for a Cat to Train its Human."

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