The State of Pet Health Report shows that 1-in-300 dogs and 1-in-230 cats develop diabetes in their lifetime. There has been an upward trend in pet diabetes prevalence over the last few years. In fact, the decade between 2006 and 2016 saw an 80% increase in dogs and an 18% increase in cats.
Pet owners should take steps to help prevent diabetes and follow all instructions to treat and take care of affected cats and dogs. The following are general guidelines to use as a starting point.
What is Pet Diabetes?
Diabetes is a common medical condition. There are two main types – sugar diabetes and water diabetes. Sugar diabetes, scientifically known as diabetes mellitus, is when the body cannot use sugar (mainly glucose) normally. Meanwhile, water diabetes (diabetes insipidus) is caused by abnormally functioning pituitary glands.
Sugar diabetes is more common among pets. It often occurs when the pancreas’ insulin-producing cells no longer function normally. This results in low insulin – a critical hormone responsible for sugar absorption. Low insulin causes hypoglycemia, a medical condition in which glucose levels fall too low to sustain the pet’s bodily functions.
Signs and Symptoms
Pets need glucose for energy. Therefore, the main symptom of low glucose is low energy levels as the body’s cells and tissues become starved of this critical nutrient. This is known as metabolic “starvation.” Unfortunately, metabolic starvation may force the body to break down fat and muscle tissue, which the liver converts to sugar.
This chain of events manifests through many signs and symptoms as follows:
Early and Middle-Stage Diabetes Symptoms in Pets
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Reduced or increased appetite
- Cataracts in dogs
- Abnormal gait in cats
- Dull fur coat
Life-Threatening Ketoacidosis Diabetes (KDA) Symptoms
Pet Diabetes Risk Factors
Diabetes in pets can occur at any age but is most common in dogs between 4-14 years and cats older than six years. It’s also twice as common in female than male dogs. Pets under long-term corticosteroid medications are also at greater risk of developing the disease.
Other risk factors include:
- Adrenal disease
- Pituitary disease
Pet Diabetes Diagnosis and Treatment
Take your pet immediately to the veterinarian if you suspect they have diabetes. Diagnosis is a relatively straightforward process involving confirmation of consistent hyperglycemia and glucosuria. Note that testing may require a several-day stay. The vet will likely run a few blood tests to rule out other medical conditions. In addition, a urine culture is necessary to rule out a urinary tract infection.
Treatment begins immediately after diabetes is diagnosed. The veterinarian will prescribe an insulin dose and administer the first injection. Remember that insulin is an injection-only medication – there is no oral intake. More importantly, it’s an under-the-skin injection, which means you do not have to find a vein.
Afterward, the veterinarian will teach you how to administer the rest of the injections at home. They will also prescribe the necessary medication and needles. You’ll get a dietary guideline that changes as the pet recovers and for the rest of its life. Your vet may also prescribe a certain type of food that helps to manage your pet’s weight.
It takes regular insulin injections, examinations, urine and blood tests, and strict adherence to the stipulated diet for pets to live a full life with diabetes.
Preventing Pet Diabetes
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to prevent pet diabetes. But you can take precautions to reduce the risk:
- Feed your pets a well-balanced diet
- Ensure your pets get regular exercise
- Help your pets maintain normal weight
- Ensure regular health screening and examinations at the vet
Pet diabetes is a high-risk condition that predisposes our pets to many long-term health issues, from cataracts to high blood pressure and urinary tract infections. Diabetes can even cause coma and sudden death. So it’s important that pet owners take this problem seriously.
Contact Naples Coastal Animal Hospital for any questions you have about diabetes in pets. Our professional team can help by recommending prevention options or treatments suited to your pet’s needs in a fear-free environment. Our priority is the long-term health and happiness of your family pet.