Diabetes in pets

Diabetes is a complex disease and it can cause a range of symptoms in our pets so it's best to know the signs. We look at what diabetes is, its symptoms, causes and treatments.

19th April 2019

We see health warnings everywhere as humans, on food packets and television adverts, a doctor’s waiting room and in pages of magazines and we often forget that these warnings are the same for our pets, too. Just like us they can suffer from conditions like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.

Diabetes is a complex disease and it can cause a range of symptoms in our pets, often unpleasant, so it’s important to understand the condition, its causes, symptoms and treatments.

What is pet diabetes?

Diabetes is when our cat or dog’s body is unable to produce enough insulin, or their body doesn’t react or use the insulin properly. Insulin is needed to absorb glucose and transport it to cells around the body which helps keep the blood sugar levels in order and lets the body properly function.

Without insulin, your pet’s body won’t be able to control the sugar levels in their blood which can lead to some serious side effects.

What are the symptoms of diabetes in pets?

Diabetes is a common condition in pets and is manageable, but with careful management, it shouldn’t have an effect on their quality of life.

Here are some symptoms to look out for, as recognising the signs can help make sure they receive the treatment they need sooner rather than later:

  • Weeing more than usual
  • Drinking more than usual
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • ‘Sweet-smelling’ breath
  • Lack of energy or increased tiredness
  • Urinary tract infection

What causes diabetes in pets?

There are no real causes of diabetes, and it’s not completely certain why some cats and dogs develop the condition but there are a few things that put your pet at risk. Things like age, gender, Cushing’s disease, and genetics can increase the likelihood of diabetes in a pet, but obesity is a big risk factor, too.

Obesity can cause the cells in your cat or dog’s body to become more resistant to insulin, which would then increase the risk of your pet developing diabetes. So, a balanced diet and plenty of exercises can help stop your pet from getting diabetes.

How is diabetes in pets treated?

Diabetes is incurable but it’s manageable, with different components being part of your pet’s treatment.


Some cats and dogs can benefit from food designed for diabetic pets or a change in their diet to make sure it includes some good-quality protein, lots of fibre and complex carbohydrates while avoiding any high sugar content foods.


When a pet is found to be diabetic, the vet might provide an exercise routine to make sure there are no sudden spikes or drops in their glucose levels.


To manage diabetes in pets, vets will prescribe an ongoing treatment in order to keep your pet’s blood sugar levels at a healthy level. This will include regular insulin shots and regular check-ups with your vet.

If you have any concerns about your cat or dog or you suspect they might have diabetes then make sure you speak to your vet.

More on our dog blog

Read more news articles, opinion pieces, reviews and personal stories behind our dogs on our blog. 


Need dog insurance?

Dog insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your dog gets injured or falls ill.


We know pets

Animal Friends Insurance is a multi-award winning FCA-regulated pet insurer, founded in 1998 to provide industry-leading pet insurance and first-class animal care to create a better life for every animal.
As one of the UK’s largest pet insurance providers, Animal Friends works with vets, veterinary professionals, and partners pioneering the latest veterinary technology & healthcare advancements to achieve our vision.
Our policyholders have helped donate over £8.5 million to more than 800 animal charities worldwide and by educating and inspiring others to act on current events and responsible pet ownership, Animal Friends is driving positive change for animal welfare and conservation.