Cats and dogs can and do get diabetes mellitus like humans do. There are some differences in the type of diabetes the average dog or cat may get but the symptoms are often the same. The most common and recognizable symptom seen is an increase in thirst and/or urination. The two often coincide but they do not have to. Also not all animals with thirst and/or urination have diabetes, but many do. Often they may have issues with weight gain, chronic infections, cloudy eyes, excessive hunger despite losing weight, loss of energy, poor coat or skin condition, or weakness of the hind legs (especially in cats) to name a few. If left untreated, diabetes can progress to a rapidly life threatening condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis which requires hospitalization and aggressive fluid therapy just for starters.
Some breeds have a higher incidence of the disease; but on average, it occurs in 1 out of 100 to 1 out of 500 dogs and cats. Some issues that may predispose an animal to diabetes include chronic pancreatitis, genetics, obesity, indoor or sedentary lifestyle, or hyperthyroidism.
Dogs tend to get Type I diabetes which usually due to a decreased production of insulin by the pancreas. This can be genetic, or secondary to some other disease or condition. It is most often treated with insulin therapy, strict dietary control and regular exercise.
Cats tend to get Type II diabetes which most often is not a problem with production of insulin, but rather with the body's ability to detect and respond appropriately to the insulin. This insulin resistance can be secondary to many different factors. Early Type II diabetes can often be well regulated with proper restrictive diets and exercise. Some if allowed to progress too far may need insulin therapy at a later date, in addition to diet and exercise.
If you suspect your pet may have diabetes, some blood and urine tests can help identify this problem early. Ask about our diabetes screening if you have such a concern.