Diabetes in Our Pets

Diabetes in Our Pets

The most common form of diabetes is diabetes mellitus which means that the pancreas has either stopped producing or has significantly reduced its production of a hormone called insulin. It is this hormone that regulates the sugar levels in our blood. 

Sadly as a pet gets older, the chances of developing diabetes increases significantly with around 1 in every 100 developing this condition over the age of 12 years. 

Our Lincoln Head Vet, Sam Reitterer-Barbour listed the most typical symptoms to look out for in our pets, especially if they are (but not always) 12 years old or more. 

  • Drinking more than normal 
  • Increased urination 
  • Increased hunger 
  • Weight loss 
  • Tiredness 

Sam said, “If your dog shows any of these signs, get your dog booked in as soon as possible and we can test them at our surgeries and begin treatment straightaway.” 

With testing on site at all of our surgeries, a quick test can determine if a pet has diabetes, and a suitable treatment plan can then be worked up.  

Sam went on to say, “It can be quite a shock to get a diabetes diagnosis as it can happen develop quite quickly along with the realisation that the treatment will be ongoing for the rest of the dog’s life, not to mention the cost of treatment that will be required.”  

Diabetes Tests 

Whilst the symptoms we have listed can also be connected to other illnesses, it is really important to get our pets tested to ensure they get the right treatment and to rule out any other conditions. A pet cannot be diagnosed as diabetic on symptoms alone, so some of the following tests may be done: 

  • Urine test. This is testing to see if there is any sugar present in your pet’s urine. In a healthy pet, sugar is filtered by the kidneys and kept in the body, but in pets that have diabetes, sugar levels are so high, that some transfers to the urine. 
  • Blood test. This tests the sugar levels in the blood. Blood tests are often recommended as they look for other markers of illness in addition to diabetes and can give a good picture of what your pet’s overall health is like. 
  • Fructosamine. This test is usually performed when a pet has been diagnosed already with diabetes. This measures the blood sugar levels over a number of weeks. 


Being able to care for your pet and manage their routine is crucial in helping to control diabetes. Once your pet has their diagnosis, you will need to manage their insulin, diet and exercise. 

Treatment for diabetes is insulin by injection usually around every 12 hours straight after meals. This is the only way your pet’s sugar levels can be controlled. In the early weeks and months after diagnosis and a treatment plan is put in place, our Vets monitor how your pet responds to the dose given.  

Sam said, “Each dog is different, some pets may be more active than others or some may have other conditions which can mean adjustments to their dose may be needed.” He added, “Dosage may also need to change over time as the dog gets older, they may need more or less, either way, it is critical, the right dose is given to ensure there no blood sugar highs or lows, both can be very dangerous.” 

Giving your pet an injection every day is a very frightening thought for a lot of pet owners, but our highly trained team at The Pet Vet know what to do and will help you feel as comfortable as possible by showing you what to do. In addition to the injections, you will also need to regularly check your pet’s blood sugar levels, this can be performed by using a glucometer, where a drop of blood from the pet and measured on a small machine at home. It’s done throughout the day to check the blood levels are maintained at a safe level and gives a good insight as to how the sugar levels are responding to food and insulin injections. An alternative testing method is fructosamine which is performed by a Vet every 2 weeks to give a view of how control has been.  

If you know anyone with diabetes, you may be familiar with the term ‘hypo’ or hypoglycaemia, this is when blood sugar levels become dangerously low. This can happen if a pet hasn’t eaten but has still had an insulin injection or they have had too much insulin. They will exhibit similar symptoms to humans, such as extreme tiredness, drinking and peeing more, they may also stumble, have seizures and lose consciousness. It is important to have high sugar food available for your pet for emergency use, glucose powders and gels are readily available which can be rubbed and absorbed in your pet’s mouth 

Low blood sugar is a medical emergency and will need to be seen by a Vet immediately.  

As part of our Senior Pet Check, we recommend a senior blood test which can look for certain conditions like diabetes.