Glossary of terms for owners of diabetic pets

Blood glucose (blood sugar)
Glucose is the main sugar found in the blood and the body's main source of energy. Also called blood glucose or blood sugar.

Blood glucose concentration
The amount of glucose in a given amount of blood. It is measured in millimoles per liter (mmol/l), milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or grams per liter (g/l).

Blood glucose meter (glucometer)
A small, portable machine that can be used to check blood glucose concentrations. After pricking the skin with a lancet or needle, a drop of blood is placed on a test strip in the machine. The meter (or monitor) soon displays the blood glucose concentration as a number on the meter's digital display.

Blood glucose monitoring
Checking blood glucose concentrations on a regular basis in order to help manage diabetes. A blood glucose meter (or blood glucose test strips that change color when touched by a blood sample) is usually used for blood glucose monitoring.

Blood sugar
See blood glucose.

Clouding of the lens of the eye. Causing partial loss of sight and even blindness.

A sleep-like state in which a person or animal is not conscious. May be caused by hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose) or hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) in diabetics.

Harmful effects of diabetes, such as damage to the eyes, nervous system or kidneys. By treating diabetes mellitus with insulin and a regular lifestyle complications should be minimised.

Cushing's disease

See Hyperadrenocorticism.

The state when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. This may be due to frequent urinating, reduced food and/or water intake, sweating, diarrhea or vomiting.

Diabetes mellitus
A condition characterized by a continuously high blood glucose concentration as a result of a relative or absolute lack of insulin. The body cells are unable to use glucose for energy.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
An emergency condition in which extremely high blood glucose concentrations, along with a severe lack of insulin, result in the breakdown of body fat for energy. Ketones accumulate in the blood and urine. Signs of DKA include vomiting, fruity breath odour, and rapid breathing. Untreated DKA can lead to coma and death.

Causing diabetes. For example, some drugs, such as progestogens (synthetic progesterones) and corticosteroids, cause blood glucose levels to rise, resulting in diabetes.


See diabetic ketoacidosis.

Dosage adjustment
see dose adjustment.

Dose adjustment
A change in the amount of insulin given to a diabetic dog or cat based on factors such as blood glucose concentrations, diet and exercise.

Endocrine gland
A group of specialized cells that release hormones into the blood for action somewhere else in the body. For example, the islets in the pancreas, which secrete insulin, are endocrine glands.

A protein made by the body that brings about a chemical reaction, for example, the enzymes produced by the intestines to aid digestion.

A normal concentration of glucose in the blood.

Grams per liter: a unit of measure that shows the concentration of a substance in a specific amount of fluid. In some countries, g/l are used to report blood glucose test results. To convert from mmol/l to g/l multiply by 0.18. Example: 10 mmol/L = 1.8 g/l.

A group of cells that secrete substances. Endocrine glands secrete hormones that act somewhere else in the body. Exocrine glands secrete salts, enzymes, and water.

See blood glucose.

The presence of glucose in the urine.

Blood glucose or blood sugar.

The form of glucose found stored in the liver and muscles.

S ee glucosuria.

The uncontrolled, non-enzymatic reaction of sugars with proteins. Very important in the complications of diabetes mellitus where abnormally high glucose concentrations result in the glycosylation of proteins such as in the lens of the eye (causing cataracts).

High blood glucose

See hyperglycaemia.

A chemical produced in one part of the body and released into the blood to trigger or regulate particular functions of the body in another part. For example, insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that tells other cells when to use glucose for energy.

Also known as Cushing’s disease. It results from an increase in cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands (small glands located near the kidneys). The characteristic clinical signs are very similar to those of diabetes mellitus (increased drinking and urination and increased appetite). The affected pet also has a pot bellied appearance, rough, dull hair coat and hair loss.

Hyperadrenocorticism is much more common in dogs than in cats. Animals with Cushing’s disease often have concurrent diabetes mellitus.

Excessive blood glucose concentrations; a sign that diabetes is not well controlled

Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic non-ketotic syndrome (HHNK syndrome)
An emergency condition in which the blood glucose concentration is very high and there are no ketones present in the blood or urine. If HHNK syndrome is not treated, it can lead to coma or death.

A common condition in older cats (rare in dogs) that has characteristic clinical signs related to overproduction of the thyroid hormones. Can be concurrent with diabetes mellitus.

A condition that occurs when the blood glucose concentration is lower than normal. Signs include hunger, nervousness, shakiness, and sleepiness. If left untreated, hypoglycemia may lead to unconsciousness.

Inserting liquid medication or nutrients into the body with a syringe.

Injection sites
Places on the body where insulin is usually injected.

A hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. The beta cells of the pancreas make insulin. When the body cannot make enough insulin, insulin is usually given to dogs and cats by injection.

Insulin adjustment
See dose adjustment.

Insulin resistance
The body's inability to respond to and use the insulin it produces. Insulin resistance may be linked to obesity or persistently high progesterone levels i.e. if synthetic progesterones are used therapeutically or in unspayed bitches.

Intermediate-acting insulin or lente insulin
Caninsulin is a lente insulin. On average, lente insulin starts to lower blood glucose levels within 1 to 2 hours after injection. Indogs it has a peak effect after 7-12 hours and then gradually declines. In cats the total duration of action is 12 hours.


Administration of a fluid or medication through a vein.

Groups of cells located in the pancreas that make hormones that help the body break down and use food. For example, alpha cells make glucagon and beta cells make insulin. Also called islets of Langerhans.

Islets of Langerhans
See islets.

See diabetic ketoacidosis

A chemical produced when there is a shortage of insulin in the blood and the body breaks down body fat for energy. High levels of ketones can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis and coma. Sometimes referred to as ketone bodies.

A condition occurring when ketones are found in the urine, a warning sign of diabetic ketoacidosis.

A ketone buildup in the body that may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Signs of ketosis are nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and breath that smells fruity.

A spring-loaded device used to prick the skin with a small needle to obtain a drop of blood e.g. for blood glucose monitoring.

Lente insulin
See intermediate-acting insulin.

Low blood sugar
See hypoglycemia

Millimoles per liter, a unit of measure that shows the concentrations of a substance in a specific amount of fluid. This unit is used in a number of countries to report blood glucose test results. In other countries, mg/dl or g/l are used. To convert from mmol/l to mg/dl multiply mmol/L by 18; to convert mmol/l to g/l multiply by 0.18 . Example: 10 mmol/L = 180 mg/dL or 1.8 g/l.

Milligrams per deciliter, a unit of measure that shows the concentration of a substance in a specific amount of fluid. In some countries, blood glucose test results are reported as mg/dL. To convert to mg/dL from mmol/L, multiply mmol/L by 18. Example: 10 mmol/L = 180 mg/dL.

Nerve disease
See peripheral neuropathy.

By definition, 15% - 20% or more extra body fat. Fat works against the action of insulin. Extra body fat is a risk factor for diabetes, particularly in cats.

An organ that makes insulin and enzymes for digestion. The pancreas is located behind the lower part of the stomach.

Peripheral neuropathy
Damage to the nerves supplying the legs. Sometimes seen in diabetic cats.

Excessive thirst; a sign of diabetes mellitus and some other diseases.

Excessive hunger; a sign of diabetes mellitus and some other diseases.

Excessive urination; a sign of diabetes mellitus and some other diseases.

Renal threshold
The blood glucose concentration at which the kidneys start to excrete glucose into the urine. In dogs this is about 10 mmol/l (180 mg/dl) and in cats about 14 mmol/l (252 mg/dl).

Secondary diabetes
A type of diabetes caused by another disease (e.g. hyperthyroidism in cats) or certain drugs (long term cortisone therapy).

Surgical sterilisation (Spay / ovariohysterectomy / ovariectomy)

Surgical removal of the the ovaries and/ or uterus to prevent "heat" and pregnancy and reduce the risk of certain diseases.

Subcutaneous injection
Placing a fluid into the tissue under the skin with a needle and syringe.

A class of carbohydrates with a sweet taste; includes glucose, fructose and sucrose. A term used to refer to blood glucose.

An instrument for introducing fluids into or withdrawing them from the body. An insulin syringe is a small disposable syringe with a very fine gauge needle attached. 40 IU/ml syringes are available for use with Caninsulin.

The liquid waste product filtered from the blood by the kidneys, stored in the bladder, and expelled from the body by the act of urinating.

Urine testing
Also called urinalysis; a test of a urine sample to diagnose diseases of the urinary system and other body systems. In dogs and cats with diabetes, a veterinary surgeon may check for:

  1. Glucose, a sign of diabetes and some other diseases.
  2. Protein, a sign of kidney damage or nephropathy.
  3. White blood cells, a sign of urinary tract infection.
  4. Ketones, a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis.

Urine may also be checked for signs of bleeding. Some tests use a single urine sample. For others, 24-hour collection may be needed. And sometimes a sample is "cultured" to see exactly what type of bacteria grows.