Type 1 diabetes is a relative or complete lack of insulin production. Type 2 diabetes is a result of insulin resistance – insulin is present, but not functioning properly. We typically tell clients that dogs are type 1 diabetics and cats are most often type 2 diabetics, but in all honestly both dogs and cats can have one or both. Just because we say a dog is a type 1 diabetic does not mean we can ignore the factors that lead to insulin resistance (such as obesity, concurrent infections and lack of exercise).

The good news about early diagnosis and prompt action for diabetic cats is that we can oftentimes reverse diabetes. High carbohydrate diets (kibble that we feed our cats) and obesity (which is becoming ever more prevalent in American kitties) are the 2 biggest risk factors for diabetes in cats. If a pet owner acts promptly once signs of increased thirst and urination are noticed, we can turn around the glucose toxicity and potentially save a client years of insulin injections using pet syringes for a diabetic cat. It is important to get a cat on a canned only low-carbohydrate diet and insulin upon diagnosis. Otherwise, a type 2 diabetic cat can turn into a type one diabetic cat as the pancreas grows ever weary and stops producing insulin altogether.

So if most dogs are type 1 diabetics, why make a fuss about factors that can cause insulin resistance? Heck, you have to give insulin anyway you may be thinking. The reason we aim to resolve sources of insulin resistance (most commonly oral infection, urinary tract infections, obesity and lack of exercise) is to improve the glucose regulation of our pets. It would be almost unheard of for a diabetic dog to no longer require insulin; however, we can improve the quality of life by resolving the factors that cause insulin resistance (the type 2 component).

If we have a pet that is well-regulated, we face fewer complications of pet diabetes. Yes, they will still be at risk for urinary tract infections, cataracts (a diabetic dog issue), neuropathy, and immunosuppression; but the frequency and severity of these complications are greatly lessened. Your financial hit from your pet’s diabetes is lessened, and your sweetie’s quality of life is improved. A quality of life similar to that of a non-diabetic is what we strive for!

It is a lovely and wonderful event for a cat to go off insulin. I’m always very proud of my clients when they put the effort into learning about diabetes and reversing diabetes in their cats. I see it quite often in my own small animal practice. Maybe dogs don’t go off their insulin, but it is a wonderful thing for a diabetic dog to be well controlled. Living with diabetes cat be a simple matter of fact.

Managing your pet’s diabetes can be a few more little tasks in your daily schedule rather than some dreaded horrific ordeal.


NOTE: Consult your veterinarian to confirm that my recommendations are applicable for the health needs of your pet.

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work and is the President and Founder of Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida.
Dr . Joi Sutton