Diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, including diabetic cardiomyopathy, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, and heart failure. As cardiovascular disease represents the number one cause of death in people with diabetes, there has been a major emphasis on understanding the mechanisms by which diabetes promotes cardiovascular disease, and how antidiabetic therapies impact diabetic heart disease. With a wide array of models to study diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), the field has made major progress in answering these questions. However, each model has its own inherent limitations. Therefore, the purpose of this guidelines document is to provide the field with information on which aspects of cardiovascular disease in the human diabetic population are most accurately reproduced by the available models. This review aims to emphasize the advantages and disadvantages of each model, and to highlight the practical challenges and technical considerations involved. We will review the preclinical animal models of diabetes (based on their method of induction), appraise models of diabetes-related atherosclerosis and heart failure, and discuss in vitro models of diabetic heart disease. These guidelines will allow researchers to select the appropriate model of diabetic heart disease, depending on the specific research question being addressed.