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Diabetes Program

Clinicians with Penn Vet's Diabetes Program at Ryan Hospital strive to provide exceptional treatment to diabetic dogs and cats, improve the quality of life of diabetic pets (and their owners), increase the life span of our patients, decrease risks of diabetic complications, and improve understanding of genetics and other disease risk factors.

The Diabetes Program advances the care of diabetic dogs and cats through clinical trials designed to improve the care of our pets. Almost any diabetic dog can be enrolled in an on-going clinical trial. For more information on our current clinical trials and how you can enroll, click on the tab below.

Diabetes mellitus occurs when the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin. Insulin is required for the body to efficiently use sugars, fats and proteins.

The body needs insulin to use sugar, fat and protein from the diet for energy. Without insulin, sugar accumulates in the blood and spills into the urine.  Sugar in the urine causes animals to pass large amounts of urine and to drink lots of water.

Levels of  sugar in the brain control appetite. Without insulin, the brain becomes sugar deprived and the animal is constantly hungry, yet they may lose weight due to improper use of nutrients from the diet.

Diabetes most commonly occurs in middle age to older dogs and cats, but occasionally occurs in young animals. When diabetes occurs in young animals, it is often genetic and may occur in related animals.

There are two major forms of diabetes in the dog and cat:

  • Uncomplicated diabetes
  • Diabetes with ketoacidosis

Pets with uncomplicated diabetes may have the signs just described but are not extremely ill.  Diabetic pets with ketoacidosis are very ill and may be vomiting and depressed.

Certain conditions predispose a dog or cat to developing diabetes. Animals that are overweight or those with inflammation of the pancreas are predisposed to developing diabetes.

Untreated diabetic pets are more likely to develop infections and commonly get bladder, kidney, or skin infections. Diabetic dogs, and rarely cats, can develop cataracts in the eyes.

The Diabetic Program at Penn Vet strives to diagnose and treat Diabetes in dogs and cats, and to continue to investigate innovative and reliable treatment options for this disease.

Some ongoing clinical trials taking place at Penn Vet include:

  • Use of glargine insulin for treatment of canine diabetes mellitus
  • Basal bolus therapy with lispro and NPH insulin
  • Treatment  with diabetic ketoacidosis with lispro insulin
  • Treatment  with diabetic ketoacidosis with aspart insulin
  • Association between oral disease and regulation of diabetes mellitus
  • Inflammatory mediators with diabetic ketoacidosis

For more information, or to enroll, contact Dr. Rebecka Hess at 215-898-9427 or rhess@vet.upenn.edu.