PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is one of the most common complications associated with chronic hyperglycemia seen in patients with diabetes mellitus. While many facets of DR are still not fully understood, animal studies have contributed significantly to understanding the etiology and progression of human DR. This review provides a comprehensive discussion of the induced and genetic DR models in different species and the advantages and disadvantages of each model. RECENT FINDINGS: Rodents are the most commonly used models, though dogs develop the most similar morphological retinal lesions as those seen in humans, and pigs and zebrafish have similar vasculature and retinal structures to humans. Nonhuman primates can also develop diabetes mellitus spontaneously or have focal lesions induced to simulate retinal neovascular disease observed in individuals with DR. DR results in vascular changes and dysfunction of the neural, glial, and pancreatic β cells. Currently, no model completely recapitulates the full pathophysiology of neuronal and vascular changes that occur at each stage of diabetic retinopathy; however, each model recapitulates many of the disease phenotypes.