Diabetes mellitus is seen in pet birds and causes signs similar to those seen in people with diabetes, including passing a large volume of urine, excessive thirst, and high sugar (glucose) levels in the blood and urine. Diabetes is often seen in birds that are overweight or that have pancreatic or reproductive problems. A veterinarian can diagnose diabetes by laboratory blood testing. Depending on the species of bird, a deficiency of insulin or relative increase in glucagon (another hormone secreted by the pancreas) may be noted.
Treatment with insulin often results in extremely short-term correction of blood sugar elevations. The veterinarian may prescribe drugs to lower the sugar levels; some of these can be put in the bird's water to allow the bird to self-regulate its sugar levels (in other words, as the blood sugar levels drop back toward normal, the bird will not want to drink as much water, and the amount of medicated water consumed decreases). Other medications that are given by mouth may also be used.
Diabetes in some birds may be temporary, being caused by another illness or condition. In other birds, as in most people, it is a life-long disease requiring constant medication to control.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Teresa L. Lightfoot, DVM, DABVP (Avian)