Diabetic nephropathy is increasing in incidence and is now the number one cause of end-stage renal disease in the industrialized world. To gain insight into the genetic susceptibility and pathophysiology of diabetic nephropathy, an appropriate mouse model of diabetic nephropathy would be critical. A large number of mouse models of diabetes have been identified and their kidney disease characterized to various degrees. Perhaps the best characterized and most intensively investigated model is the db/db mouse. Because this model appears to exhibit the most consistent and robust increase in albuminuria and mesangial matrix expansion, it has been used as a model of progressive diabetic renal disease. In this review, we present the findings from various studies on the renal pathology of the db/db mouse model of diabetes in the context of human diabetic nephropathy. Furthermore, we discuss shortfalls of assessing functional renal disease in mouse models of diabetic kidney disease.