Department of Paraclinical Sciences, University of Pretoria

Pets and diabetes

Diabetes in domestic cats and dogs?

In the last decade, diabetes has drastically increased in the human population with obesity and diet being the major risk factors. Similarly, the rate of diabetes has increased in the domestic animal population. Dogs are believed to develop a form of diabetes that is similar to type 1 diabetes. Insulin resistance due to inadequate insulin function has also been observed in dogs. Different breeds show different predispositions to the disease. For example, it seems that Samoyeds, Swedish elkhound, lapphund and poodles are at a higher risk for developing diabetes. Golden retrievers, German shepherds and boxers are at a lower risk for developing the disease. Cats are believed to have a form of diabetes similar to type 2 diabetes in humans with obesity being a major risk factor.

Studying diabetes in cats and dogs is of particular interest to the MyoLab for a number of reasons. Firstly, the mechanisms surrounding this disease and specifically the role of skeletal muscle is poorly understood in domestic animals, especially between different breeds. Secondly, cats and dogs share the same environment as humans and therefore may provide us with insight into the understanding of type 2 diabetes in humans. Lastly, this study fits into the overall aims of the MyoLab, which is to study the structure, metabolism and functionality of the skeletal muscle of various species. This will add to the knowledge gained from our previous and ongoing studies where we look at diabetes in wild felids (such as lions and cheetahs) and primates.

What are we doing?

This study aims to compare the skeletal muscle characterisitcs from clinically diagnosed diabetic cats and dogs of various breeds with healthy cats and dogs. Our sample will include animals from Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg. We aim to investigate the skeletal muscle composition, metabolic profile and glucose disposal capacity in these animals in order to further understand the mechanisms of type 2 diabetes. This may provide veterinarians and animal owners with the necessary knowledge to treat and prevent diabetes in domestic cats and dogs.


Johan Schoeman (University of Pretoria)

Amelia Goddard (University of Pretoria)

Johan Steyl (University of Pretoria)

David Grant (Rondebosch Veterinary Hospital, Cape Town)

Malan van Zyl (Cape Animal Medical Centre, Cape Town)

Current students

Kathryn van Boom (MSc, University of Cape Town)