Treatments for Pet Diabetes

The treatment of pet diabetes requires a commitment of time and management from you, the owner. There is no cure for diabetes, but, as with humans, it can be controlled with insulin injections, diet and exercise management. With such therapy, your pet can lead a happy, comfortable life.

The cost of caring for a diabetic pet is an important consideration. Of course, the cost will vary somewhat depending on any additional health problems that may occur and the size of your animal. To estimate your costs, it’s best to break down the treatment stages:

  • Initial diagnostic work-up
  • Stabilization
  • Maintenance

Your veterinarian will discuss the costs involved for each stage.

Beyond the monetary cost, there is a time commitment required of owners of a diabetic pet. Such a commitment may not seem easy, but can be very rewarding for both pet and owner. Your commitment adds to the quality of your pet’s life and is paid back in years of healthy companionship.

Questions you may have concerning your pet’s health are welcomed by your veterinarian and hospital staff.

Although diabetes can be controlled with insulin and diet, diabetic animals are more susceptible to other health problems. Diabetes can cause an increased incidence of infections (especially bladder infections), slowed healing, cataracts, gastrointestinal dysfunction, kidney disease, heart disease, pancreatitis and nervous system disorders.

You should never breed a diabetic female animal because it is extremely difficult to control diabetes during pregnancy, and may cause a life-threatening situation.


You must provide your pet daily injections of insulin for the rest of its life. Oral medication is rarely effective for diabetic animals. Once your pet has been diagnosed with diabetes its specific insulin requirements need to be determined. Each pet’s insulin needs are unique and will vary from day to day.

Your pet may need to be hospitalized for 2-4 days in order to determine its specific medication needs. Your veterinarian will give the pet an insulin injection and test blood sugar levels at regular intervals throughout the day. These results are used to determine your pet’s initial insulin requirements. Your veterinarian may indicate these on a Glucose Curve Chart.

Because your pet’s insulin needs may change once it returns home, (due to changes in diet, exercise and environmental stresses ), periodic reevaluation over the first two weeks after diagnosis is recommended until satisfactory control is achieved. Once control is achieved, further evaluations should be conducted every 2-4 months.

Insulin and Dosages

The type of insulin and the daily dose are tailored to meet the needs of each animal. Some animals require one daily, some twice daily treatments. Some may require one type of insulin, while other medications may also be prescribed, depending on complications.

It is important that the insulin injections are given at the same time each day. The injection is given just under the skin and is not painful to your pet. Your veterinarian will show you how to administer the injection.

When regulating a diabetic animal’s blood glucose level, the goal is to keep it between 80 and 150 mg/dl. The recommended dose of insulin determined while your pet was in the veterinary clinic may need adjustment once your pet is home. This is because the food and exercise your pet receives at home may be different.

To adjust the insulin dosage, your veterinarian will continue to evaluate and regulate your pet two ways. Your veterinarian will occasionally request you bring your dog or cat into the clinic for the day to test for blood and urine glucose levels. Also, you may be asked to monitor your pet’s urine at home.

Hypoglycemia – Low Blood Sugar

Good blood glucose control is the most important aspect of treatment for your diabetic pet. That means giving your pet regular insulin shots which may, unfortunately, also cause the greatest immediate threat to your pet’s health by getting too much insulin. Too much insulin causes blood glucose levels to drop, a condition called “hypoglycemia”, which can make your pet very sick and can result in death. Just as human diabetics carry a candy bar or orange juice to treat their low blood glucose, you should have corn syrup or sugar pills on hand at all times. This is especially important for dog owners who are more likely to be outdoors with their pet.

Please Note: Do NOT ever give your pet chocolate to boost blood glucose levels. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine that may cause seizures or kidney failure.

Symptoms of low blood glucose include:

  • Unsteady gait
  • Lethargy
  • Shaking
  • Falling
  • Seizures