According to the Pet Diabetes Month Campaign, it is estimated that 1 in 300 adult dogs and 1 in 230 cats in the US have diabetes. Diabetes is even more common among humans, and people will find that the disease is very similar for people and animals alike. Realizing that even furry friends can be affected by the health condition helps raise a sense of urgency in pet parents. Diabetes is a very real disease that people should be educated on not only for their own health, but their pet’s as well.
What is diabetes, and is my pet at risk?
Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) occurs in cats and dogs when their pancreas produces too little insulin, stops producing it all together, or is unable to utilize it properly. This in turn affects the levels of glucose or sugar in their bodies.
When your pet eats, the nutrients from their food is absorbed to be turned into energy. These nutrients are then transported into the intestines and converted into simple sugars such as glucose. From there it enters the bloodstream and is circulated throughout the entire body. However, insulin is needed in order to deliver the glucose from the bloodstream to other cells. If the body doesn’t have enough insulin or is not able to use it properly, the glucose will remain in the bloodstream instead of reaching their rightful place in the cells. This will cause a high concentration and buildup of glucose in the blood and deprive cells and tissues of needed energy. Your body will try to compensate by breaking down fat and muscle tissue to turn into sugar, which can lead to unnecessary weight loss.
Cats and dogs of any age can develop diabetes, but it’s much more common in middle-aged to mature, adult pets. If it occurs in younger animals, it may be a sign of predisposition or genetic related development. It can also occur in both males and females, but is more frequently seen in female dogs than males. Specific breeds of canines are more prone to develop the illness, such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Toy Poodles, Terriers, etc.
Actively taking steps to prevent diabetes will not only reduce their risk of developing the disease, but will give them a much healthier lifestyle overall.
Firstly, you should bring your pet to the vet for regular checkups. The veterinarian can catch the disease early on or advise you how to make your pet healthier and prevent them from getting it. Also don’t be afraid to reach out to them if you notice a change in your pet’s behavior or eating and bathroom habits. Secondly, you should keep your companion active. Make time to take them for daily walks and engage in a little extra playtime. This helps to regulate the amount of sugar in your pet’s blood, plus keep off extra pounds. Pair this hand in hand with providing your pet a high quality diet filled with protein and pet-friendly fruits and vegetables. A diet composed of primarily carbohydrates will provide less nutritional value, whereas protein can stabilize glucose levels.
Lastly, if your pet is a female dog, have them spayed. The hormone fluctuations that female dogs undergo after birth or during their menstrual cycle can increase the risk of diabetes.
Even if you do all you can to prevent diabetes, sometimes it’s simply out of your control. The following are signs that your pet may have the disease:
- Urinating frequently
- Drinking a lot of water
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Cloudy eyes
- Poor coat condition
- Sleeps more
Diagnosis & Treatment
The above signs could be a giveaway that your pet has diabetes, but because these symptoms can also be caused by other health conditions, only your veterinarian can really confirm through tests done with the urine and blood. They’ll look to see what the glucose content looks like in both. If it is confirmed that your pet has diabetes, know that though it’s not curable, it is manageable.
Insulin injections are the main form of treatment used to manage diabetes. Your veterinarian will work with you to find an appropriate dose that you can inject in your pet one to two times a day, which will control the levels of glucose in their blood. This should be given at the same time everyday. They will teach you how to administer the injection and draw the correct amount of insulin from the bottle. As you and your pet begin to develop a routine, it becomes a very simple and quick process. In addition to insulin injections, your veterinarian will also discuss diet options and forms of regular exercise that will help optimize your companion’s health.
If left untreated, your dog or cat will be at higher risk of complications associated with diabetes, including but not limited to hypoglycemia, cataracts, ketoacidosis, pancreatitis, infections, and peripheral neuropathy. That’s why the best time to become educated on diabetes is always the present. If your furry friend is confirmed to have it, learning how to help them through insulin and a tailored diet will be their quickest road to recovery.