The aetiology of diabetic retinopathy (DR), the leading cause of blindness in the developed world, remains controversial. One hypothesis holds that retinal hypoxia, exacerbated by the high O2 consumption of rod photoreceptors in the dark, is a primary cause of DR. Based on this prediction we investigated whether early retinal abnormalities in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats are alleviated by preventing the rods from dark adapting. Diabetic rats and their non-diabetic littermates were housed in a 12:12 hour light-dim light photocycle (30 lux during the day and 3 lux at night). Progression of early retinal abnormalities in diabetic rats was assessed by monitoring the ERG b-wave and oscillatory potentials, Müller cell reactive gliosis, and neuronal cell death, as assayed by TUNEL staining and retinal thickness at 6 and 12 weeks after diabetes induction. Maintaining diabetic animals in a dim-adapting light did not slow the progression of these neuronal and glial changes when compared to diabetic rats maintained in a standard 12:12 hour light-dark photocycle (30 lux during the day and 0 lux at night). Our results indicate that neuronal and glial abnormalities in early stages of diabetes are not exacerbated by rod photoreceptor O2 consumption in the dark.