Obesity and diabetes: They go together in pets and in people. In 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that roughly 1 in 500 dogs and 1 in 200 cats have diabetes.


It’s not always easy to tell whether your pet has diabetes. Sometimes, very different diseases or conditions share similar signs. And, if you don’t know what to look for, you may not see signs that are right in front of you. One example: Your pet drinks lots of water. Good or bad? That depends. Drinking too much water is one sign of diabetes. But it is also a sign of kidney disease… or a urinary tract infection.


If your pet shows any of these signs, a trip to the veterinarian is in order:

·       increased thirst, leading to increased drinking and urination

·       weight loss, despite eating more

·       weak rear legs (in cats)

·       cataracts (mostly in dogs) 


Any of these symptoms could be a sign of one of the two types of diabetes. Both have the same effects, but each has different causes and treatment options.


In Type I diabetes, the pancreas has too-few insulin-producing cells, so it cannot produce as much insulin as the pet needs.

In Type II diabetes, the pancreas produces plenty of insulin, but the pet’s body becomes resistant to it. Age and weight are factors in causing Type II diabetes. Older, overweight pets are more susceptible because fat cells may become resistant to insulin. Controlling your pet’s weight is key to preventing and treating Type II diabetes.


Regardless of the type of diabetes pets’ have, it’s important to realize that the majority of pets require insulin therapy to control their disease. In both types of diabetes, because the animal cannot process food properly, tissues break down and the pet loses weight. Over time, the pet’s organs may fail. Fortunately, with treatment, diabetic cats and dogs can live long, full lives.


The sooner your veterinarian performs blood or urine tests to diagnose the disease, the better your pet’s prognosis will be.  With diet and exercise, and possibly with insulin injections, you and your pet can enjoy many years together.


This article written by Adriana Aguilar, originally appeared in PetsMatter Sept/Oct 09 - Volume 4 Issue 5, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA.

Reprinted with permission from the American Animal Hospital Association.