Type 1 and 2 diabetes are associated with dysfunction in multiple hormone systems, as well as increased sympathetic nerve activity, which may contribute to the development of diabetic complications. In other pathologies, such as myocardial infarction, increased sympathetic drive is associated with neuroinflammation and microglial activation in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN), a brain region that regulates sympathetic drive and multiple endocrine responses. In the present study, we used immunohistochemistry to study microglial and neuronal activation in the PVN and related brain regions in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats. As expected, STZ treatment was associated with elevated blood glucose within 1 week. STZ injections also caused neuronal activation in the PVN and superoptic nucleus (SON) but not in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS), which was evident by 6 weeks. STZ-treated rats showed increased plasma osmolarity, which would be expected to activate PVN and SON neurones. There was no apparent increase in histochemical markers of microglial activation, including phospho-p38, phospho-extracellular signal regulated kinase, P2X4 receptor or interleukin 1-β even at 10 weeks after STZ-treatment. However, we did see a significant increase in the percentage of microglia with an activated morphology in the PVN, SON and NTS, although not in surrounding hypothalamic, brainstem or cortical regions. These morphological changes included a significant reduction in microglial process length and were evident by 8 weeks but not 6 weeks. The delayed onset of microglial changes compared to neuronal activation in the PVN and SON suggests the over-excitation of neurones as a mechanism of microglial activation. This delayed microglial activation may, in turn, contribute to the endocrine dysregulation and the elevated sympathetic nerve activity reported in STZ-treated rats.