Diabetes Mellitus

Canine and Feline


It is estimated that 1 out of every 100 dogs that reaches 12 years of age will develop diabetes.*

Diabetes mellitus occurs when a dog has stopped producing insulin, has inadequate levels of insulin, or has an abnormal response to insulin. Diabetes mellitus is common in middle-aged and older dogs, especially female dogs, but it is also seen in young dogs of both sexes. Certain breeds of dogs also experience above-average rates of diabetes.

It cannot be cured, but it can be managed.

Understanding insulin
During digestion, your pet’s food is broken down into smaller components for use by the body. Carbohydrates are converted into various sugars, including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the blood and provides the body’s cells with energy. However, glucose can only enter into most cells if the hormone known as insulin is present. Insulin is produced by specific cells in the pancreas. In diabetic animals, these cells in the pancreas produce little or no insulin. When this happens, glucose cannot enter into the body’s cells and therefore begins to accumulate in the blood. In addition, the cells of the body are starved for energy. This combined effect is known as diabetes mellitus. Simply put, diabetes results from a shortage of insulin.

Insulin facts

  • Insulin is a hormone that keeps your pet’s blood glucose concentration at a normal level while delivering glucose (energy) to the body’s cells
  • Insulin is produced by certain cells in the pancreas
  • In diabetic animals, these cells produce little or no insulin

*Nelson RW. Canine diabetes mellitus. In: Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC, eds. Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 7th ed. St. Louis, MO: Saunders; 2010:1782–1796.