Pet diabetes is a serious illness that affects millions of dogs and cats worldwide. It occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or is unable to use the insulin produced correctly. This impairs sugar metabolism and can lead to various health problems, including kidney disease, neuropathy, anemia, cataracts, infections, and more. 

Pet owners need to be aware of some common risk factors associated with pet diabetes and signs their pets may have this condition. They should also know how to treat it successfully in most cases by managing diet and exercise for their furry friends. Understanding these things will allow them to keep their beloved animals safe from harm while still enjoying all of the benefits having a pet brings into one’s life.

What factors put my pet at risk for developing diabetes?

While any pet can develop diabetes—even young pets—some conditions may predispose your cat or dog to develop this disorder. Potential risk factors for diabetes development in pets include:  

  • Age — Although diabetes can appear at any age, it mainly occurs in middle-aged to senior pets. Dogs are generally 7 to 10 years of age at diagnosis, while most cats are older than 6.
  • Gender — Unspayed female dogs are twice as likely as male dogs to have diabetes.
  • Chronic or repeated pancreatitis — Chronic or repeated pancreatitis eventually can cause such significant damage to the pancreas that diabetes can develop. In addition, chronic pancreatitis can make diabetes management more challenging.
  • Obesity — Obesity contributes to insulin resistance and is also a risk factor for pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes. A pet who develops diabetes often quickly loses a substantial amount of weight.
  • Steroid medications — Long-term use of steroid medications, such as prednisone, can cause diabetes.
  • Cushing’s disease — Cushing’s disease causes the body to overproduce natural steroids and, if left unregulated or poorly controlled, can lead to diabetes.
  • Certain health conditions — Certain autoimmune disorders and viral diseases are thought to possibly trigger diabetes.
  • Genetics — Diabetes can occur in any breed or mixed-breed, but it seems that genetics can play a role in development. Among purebred pets, breeds vary in susceptibility. Pets who have a higher risk of diabetes development include:
    • Miniature poodles
    • Bichon frises
    • Pugs
    • Dachshunds
    • Miniature schnauzers
    • Puli
    • Samoyeds
    • Keeshonds
    • Fox terriers
    • Cairn terriers
    • Beagles


Purebred Siamese, Burmese, and Maine Coon cats also are at an increased risk.

What signs might my pet show if they develop diabetes?

If your pet develops diabetes, regardless of whether they have an increased risk, they may exhibit the following signs:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Cloudy eyes in dogs
  • Hind leg weakness in cats
  • Chronic or recurring infections

If your furry companion shows worrying illness signs, contact our team for an appointment.