Diabetes mellitus in animals

In the following article we provide information on treatment options for diabetes mellitus in animals, and more.

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes results from a lack of insulin which lowers blood sugar levels in the body.

Permanently elevated glucose levels (hyperglycemia) can lead to life-threatening metabolic derailments (diabetic ketoacidosis), cataracts, fatty liver disease or, rarely, even nerve disease.

Too low glucose levels (hypoglycemia) are also dangerous for the patient. Symptoms include weakness, lethargy and cramps. Both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia can lead to death if left untreated. Classic symptoms of diabetes are increased drinking and passing of large amounts of urine, weight loss despite good food intake, and a dull, scaly coat.


Therapy consists of administering an insulin preparation (usually Caninsulin or ProZincinsulin with cats) and feeding diabetic food. During treatment the above symptoms should improve and, ideally, even disappear. The first step is to determine the ideal insulin dose for your pet. At the beginning of therapy, a fixed dose of insulin is given and regular checks are made to see how your pet's blood glucose levels settle. For the remainder of the animal’s life and regularly every 12 hours, Caninsulin must be injected under the skin (subcutaneously/s.c.).

Insulin Handling:

Insulin should be stored in the refrigerator. Before drawing up the insulin syringe, the insulin vial should be rolled back and forth between the hands about 20 times. Do not shake!! This will ensure that contents are thoroughly mixed. If sediments form or the insulin becomes cloudy, it may be completely dissolved again by shaking. Insulin is injected subcutaneously. For this purpose, a fold of skin is raised to form a "tent". Injections are never made vertically, but parallel to the animal at a flat angle through the "tent door". Care must be taken not to inject across the skin fold. Therefore, the injection should be made longitudinally and not transversely under the skin fold. If the fur is wet after the injection, insulin was inadvertently injected through the fold. In such case, an iron rule applies: NEVER re-inject! Since one 10 | 10 cannot be sure how much insulin has entered the body, a hypoglycemic effect could result from a subsequent injection, which is more dangerous than a sugar level that is too high for a short time. Therefore, please wait until the next dose may be given 12 hours later; then inject the normal dose. Injection into, rather than under, the skin must also be avoided.

Insulin dosage:

Dogs and cats are fed twice daily directly before or during the insulin injection. Cats should always have food at their free disposal, preferably the exact same amount daily. If your cat always wants to eat its entire portion immediately, please feed several small snacks in between, preferably with animation for movement (e.g. by throwing dry food). If your pet refuses to eat, please inject only half the number of units of insulin followed by putting the food away. In case of a reduced general condition or changed behavior, measure the blood glucose at home or at the vet’s. If this is not possible, give 5 to 10 ml of sugar solution or honey in the mouth. If this does not noticeably improve the general condition, please present your animal to the veterinary immediately. Please contact our clinic, if increased drinking or urination continues to be noticeable during therapy. Under no circumstances should you change the insulin dose on your own!

Blood glucose measurement

To control blood glucose fluctuations that occur within a day, it is useful to prepare a daily blood glucose profile at regular intervals. For this purpose, the glucose value is determined every 2 hours throughout the day until late evening.

Deviations in the therapy may be necessary if animals suffer from too much stress in the practice, especially cats.

From these readings we may determine the perfect dose for your animal. Blood glucose meters (available in pharmacies or drugstores, e.g. Contur from Bayer), equipped with appropriate lancing devices, are suitable for measuring blood glucose. We will gladly show you how to use both blood glucose meter and lancing device, and discuss with you which values are optimal.

Long-term monitoring

The first regular appointment for a check with us should take place 10 to 14 days after initial setting of insulin. Upon successful dose adjustment, your pet should have a routine check-up every 3 to 6 months. Careful monitoring and control may limit chronic problems associated with diabetes, and maintain a good quality of life. If, however, you notice symptoms again or if existing symptoms become more severe, please contact us immediately.

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