Unspayed Female Pets With Diabetes

By |2016-12-29T15:35:44-05:00Updated: December 5th, 2013|Pet Care, Pet Diabetes, Pet Newsletter|6 Comments

The other day I met a client with a several year old intact (non-spayed) female dog. I suggested to her that we perform an ovariohysterectomy. Her response was that she has had pets her whole life and had never spayed any of them.

There are good reasons for spaying a female dog or cat such as dramatically lowering the risk of mammary tumors, curbing the pet overpopulation situation, avoiding the mess when they come into season, and removing the chance of uterine infections. Most pets are spayed in their youth, long before they might become diabetic later in life. Nonetheless, intact female pets with diabetes should definitely be spayed.

For our pet owners with diabetic pets it really is critical to spay the pet as soon as possible. The reason for this is that as a pet cycles, the hormones can affect glucose regulation. Progesterone has been called the hormone of pregnancy. Progesterone is a potent antagonist of insulin. You may have heard of humans with gestational diabetes when pregnant. It can happen to pets, too. Progesterone levels also rise when a pet comes into heat. Dogs usually come into heat twice yearly, and each of these cycles lasts typically 3 to 6 weeks. Cats are induced ovulators. Cats may come into heat repeatedly unless they are bred. Cats tend to be more vocal (obnoxious?) about being in season than dogs, but unlike dogs they don’t typically have a discharge while in season.

Imagine thinking you have finally sorted your pet’s insulin dose requirement and then come the hormones of a heat cycle. Suddenly your pet may start drinking and peeing more. You wonder if the insulin went bad. You blame your vet for being a dummy. You grumble about going in to pay another exam fee or roll your eyes when your vets says, “Run a glucose curve at home”. Really, if a pet isn’t spayed, you should anticipate periods when your pet is NOT regulated until you proceed with the spay.

Now, what to do with the anesthesia on the day of the surgery? We recently discussed anesthesia for the diabetic pet. Always speak with your vet regarding his or her favorite approach to handing anesthesia for a diabetic pet! You can anticipate your vet checking the blood glucose several times that day and giving a lower morning dose of insulin since your pet will be held off food before anesthesia.

As always, I enjoy interaction with our readers. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at Joi.SuttonDVM@adwdiabetes.com.

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.

About the Author:

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 though 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.


  1. Anne-Marie Le Roux November 9, 2019 at 2:23 am - Reply

    This article has helped me tremendously to understand why my pet has complicated diabetes and after reading this, I’ve immediately booked a spay for her. My vet has been suggesting that she gets spayed but I was worried about complications. But now that I understand better, the decision is made. Thank you so much for this!

    • Dr . Joi Sutton November 9, 2019 at 3:29 pm - Reply

      Great! I like to say that education is key to a well regulated diabetic pet. 🙂

  2. BW August 6, 2020 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    How long after a heat cycle will sugar regulate? We just got my female regulated enough for spay and she came in heat 🙁

    • Dr . Joi Sutton August 11, 2020 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      Well, it is extremely hard to regulate an intact female. I would likely proceed with the spay at this t8me if all else is fine. The reproductive tissue may be a bit more fragile or friable during a spay (why vets prefer the pet isn’t in heat for a spay), but a spay in heat can certainly be done. And of course your vet will likely keep a close eye on the blood glucose before, during and after the surgery. A heat cycle can last 1 to 6 weeks.

  3. Di August 29, 2020 at 8:11 am - Reply

    My diabetic dog also has leukaemia and my vet does not want her to undergo surgery. This is her first season since being diagnosed with diabetes and I hope we can keep everything under control.

    • Dr . Joi Sutton August 29, 2020 at 9:29 pm - Reply

      Progesterone is the hormone of pregnancy and causes insulin resistance. (That’s why
      Regent women can get gestational diabetes.) Clearly your vet has examined her and I have not… I don’t feel I can give you an opinion regarding it it is safe to have surgery since I’ve not examined your pet nor know any meds she might be taking. I hope her estrus goes by quickly and uneventfully!! You should probably step upper glucose testing while she is in heat and have a plan with your vet regarding insulin dosing based on her glucose levels.

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