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Posted on 11-23-2016

Diabetes in Pets: What do I Need to Know?

November is Pet Diabetes month. If you aren’t familiar with diabetes, then it can be overwhelming if your pet is diagnosed with it. Hopefully the following information on diabetes management will help simplify it a bit. For a more comprehensive look into diabetes, there are several links throughout to complement the information.

First Things First

What is diabetes? On our website under the veterinary topics section, we have defined Diabetes Mellitus (DM) as: “a lifelong disorder of dogs and cats that results when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to meet the animal’s needs”. What does this mean for your pet? Insulin is a hormone needed to transport glucose into the body’s cells. When there is a lack of insulin, the animal’s blood glucose rises to abnormally high levels.

How Will I Know if My Dog or Cat has Diabetes?

Diabetes in pets is just as serious as diabetes in humans. There are a number of health problems that can become life threatening if your pet doesn’t receive treatment. Here is a list of common symptoms associated with diabetes:

  • Polyphagia (excessive hunger)
  • Weight loss (especially if they are eating excessively)
  • Polyuria (excessive urination)
  • Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Poor body condition
  • Kidney failure (mainly in cats)
  • Weakness in rear limbs (cats)
  • Impaired ability to jump (cats)

Even if your pet is only exhibiting one of these symptoms, it is still a good idea to have them seen by your veterinarian. This list of symptoms comes from Henry Schein’s article entitled, “Companion Pet and Diabetes”.

Are You SURE My Pet is Diabetic?

If you suspect that your pet has diabetes, your veterinarian will more than likely take blood and urine samples to test for excessive levels of glucose. These tests are considered diagnostics and will confirm whether or not your pet is diabetic, or has something else going on resulting in similar symptoms. In many cases your veterinarian may also perform a glucose curve at some point during your pet’s treatment and management of the disease. This involves your animal staying at the hospital for the day and receiving shorter-acting insulin as well as a normal meal to monitor the changes in blood glucose throughout the day. This type of testing helps provide a more specific treatment plan for your pet.

So Mr. Sparkles is Diabetic, Now What?

Once your pet is diagnosed with diabetes, the veterinary staff will go over a diabetic care sheet with you. This information includes the dose and type of insulin that your pet will be receiving, dietary recommendations, and what to do in case of a diabetic emergency. Your pet’s dose of insulin will be calculated according to their weight at the time they are diagnosed. Every pet reacts differently to the medication and follow up appointments are crucial to ensure that the appropriate amount of insulin is being administered. Here are some more diabetes management tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

How Can I Prevent My Other Pet’s from Becoming Diabetic?

In 2010, the American Animal Hospital Association reviewed several risk factors for diabetes. Both species are at risk for insulin resistance caused by obesity. How we feed our pets and manage their diet is the best preventative medicine for this disease. An estimated 58% of cats and 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Taking action and monitoring the amount of food your pet is consuming each day is vital to the prevention of many diseases, including diabetes. If you’re unsure how much your pet should be eating each day, come in to our office and ask for a weight assessment. Our scale is available for use any time during business hours to monitor your pet’s progress accurately.

Disease can increase diabetic risk factors for some pets, such as acromegaly in cats or hyperadrenocorticism (or Cushing’s Disease) in dogs. Also, certain breeds are suspected to have increased genetic risk factors, including Australian terriers, beagles, Samoyeds, keeshonds and Burmese cats.

Join the Fight!

Whether or not your pet is diabetic, the best thing you can do is to help raise awareness for this disease. By spreading the word, you could save a life or help prevent diabetes risk by reducing obesity in our pets! 

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