Diabetic dogs and cats can live long and healthy lives with proper management and veterinary care. But if left untreated, it can become fatal. For this reason, we educate pet parents on the prevention and treatment of the disease.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes in pets is a condition that occurs when your pet cannot use glucose (a type of sugar) efficiently. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the cells of your pet’s body.
As food passes through the intestines during digestion, sugars are one of the nutrients that are absorbed. The sugars are transported into the cells that line your pet’s intestines and are converted into simple sugars. The simple sugars are then absorbed into the bloodstream for circulation and delivery to the whole body’s tissues and cells.
The body controls glucose levels using the hormone insulin. Insulin comes from the pancreas and aids the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. If there is not enough insulin or your pet’s body cannot use the insulin, glucose accumulates in high levels in the blood. We call this condition hyperglycemia.
When their blood glucose gets too high, the glucose overflows into their urine. It draws large volumes of water with it. For this reason, pets will often drink more water. Typically they urinate more frequently and in more significant amounts.
Because your pet is not getting enough energy from the glucose, their tissues become starved for energy. Their bodies start to break down their fat and muscle to try and make up for the lost energy.
Signs of Diabetes in Pets
Early diagnosis is the key to making sure your pet lives a long and healthy life. If you notice any of these signs in your pet, you should make an appointment with a veterinarian promptly.
Excessive water drinking and increased urination
Weight loss, even though there may be an increased appetite
Cloudy eyes (especially in dogs)
Chronic or recurring infections (including skin infections and urinary infections)
Diagnosis and Treatment for Diabetes in Pets
If we suspect your pet may have diabetes, we will first check over their general health. We will make sure your pet is not suffering from any other condition or infection.
To rule out other conditions or infections, we do a urine and blood test to confirm whether your pet has diabetes. Our hospital is equipped to perform most diagnostic and therapeutic services. If we confirm your pet has diabetes, we will give you an exact treatment plan to follow.
Your pet will need a special diet to help manage their blood sugar levels, as well as receiving insulin shots. For specific guidelines on diabetes treatment, you can take a look at this article by the AVMA.
By rigorously following their diet and insulin injection schedule, your pet can live a happy life.
Regular checkups are necessary because having diabetes makes them prone to other long-term complications.
You can also supplement their regular checkups with at-home testing of their glucose levels, which your veterinarian can instruct you on how to do.
Prevention of Diabetes in Pets
Diet and lack of exercise are a few contributing factors to the development of diabetes. But genetics, especially with dogs, plays an important role. Some dog breeds that are prone to diabetes:
Obese cats are up to four times more likely to develop diabetes than cats with a healthy weight.
Firstly, feed your pet a healthy diet. There is no one-size-fits-all diet for all pets. So, talk with your veterinarian about what diet is right for your pet. Also, learn how much and how often you should be feeding your pet.
Secondly, make sure your pet gets enough exercise which can prevent weight gain.
Thirdly, take your pet for regular checkups. Your veterinarian is the best person to help guide you and provide strategies for keeping your pet in the best possible health.
Diabetes is not a life-threatening condition as long as it is caught and treated early. If you have seen any of the signs of diabetes in your pet, schedule an examination right away. We want your pet to be able to get back to living its everyday life as fast as possible. If you have any questions, please contact us so we can set up an appointment.
Ashley Tuma, D.V.M.