Greenbriar Animal Hospital
Celebrating the Human Pet Bond!

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus ("sugar diabetes") is a disease caused by an insulin deficiency.  Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas (a gland next to the stomach) and is necessary to convert blood sugar into a more useful form of energy for the body.  Without insulin replacement, serious changes occur in the pet that lead to further illness and eventual death.  On rare occasions certain cats with diabetes will start producing insulin again if fed the correct diet.  For most pets, treatment is usually lifelong and critical for the pet's survival.  In dogs, cataracts are always a part of being diabetic.  They will happen when the diabetes is poorly regulated.

Some common signs are: weight loss, cataracts, weakness, chronic or re-occurring infections, excessive thirst and urination.  In pets with diabetes, or a lack of insulin, serious changes occur which can lead to a diabetic coma and death.  There is no known cure for this disease.  

Diet is the most important part of your treatment.  The more consistent your food amount and calories are, the more accurate your insulin dosing will be.  What you do each day should stay consistent from day to day and morning to night so the insulin needs don't change.  Ideal body weight also lowers your need for insulin.  When food goes in, sugar goes up and insulin is needed.

With individualized medical management and your care at home, pets with diabetes can lead a happy and normal life.  

Patients with diabetes will require frequent blood sugar checks while we are determining the appropriate insulin dosage.  Periodic blood sugars may be checked at home (a technician will teach you how), or here at the clinic.  So called "spot checks" -(single blood sugar level) are performed at the "nadir" - the mid point in time between the insulin shots.  For example, a dog that gets insulin at 7am and 7pm will come in for a nadir blood glucose at 1pm.

Once we believe the dose of insulin is close to correct, we will then do a blood glucose curve to determine if there are any dangerous spikes or dips throughout the day.  The animal is brought to the clinic at 8am (usually fasted) and a blood sugar checked.  BRING BREAKFAST AND INSULIN.  The animal is then fed and insulin given, and then the blood sugars are checked every 2-3 hours throughout the day, until discharge at 5-6pm.  
        *The doctor may modify the morning feeding/insulin routine based on the particular animal (ie a very shy dog may be fed/given insulin at home if we are worried the dog won't eat in clinic).  


1.    What if my pet refuses to eat?                           Give Karo syrup, honey, icing or
        anything  "tasty"

2.    What if I am not sure I gave all of the injection?      Wait for the next dose and give the
           usual dose

3.    What if my pet eats another food other                  You're okay but don't make
       than the regular diet?                                             a habit of it.

4.    What if I forget to give the injection at                   An occasional missed day/dose is
       the regular time?                                                    not a crisis.

5.    What if my pet starts to shake, appears                Give Karo syrup, honey or food. If signs  
       weak or wobbly?                                               persist, call vet or emergency clinic.

6.    What if my pet is seizuring and can't swallow?    Squeeze karo syrup or honey onto
        the gums and rub gently. Seek
        emergency help immediately.

7.    Can I use the same needle more than once?       Not recommended.

8.    Do I have to keep the insulin refrigerated?          Depends on the type- warm the sample in your
          syringe before use.
9. How do I mix the insulin?    We recommend rolling the insulin vial to mix.

IT IS ALWAYS SAFER TO HAVE TOO HIGH BLOOD SUGAR THAN TOO LOW, if in doubt, skip or halve your insulin dose.

Getting started with a new diabetic animal is a scary and often intimidating process.  Please call the clinic if you have ANY concerns or questions - we will help you get through this learning time.