It is Pet Diabetes Awareness Month, and what better time to take a minute to learn about this common affliction in both our dog and cat family members? Join Volunteer Veterinary Hospital as we explain everything you need to know about diabetes in pets.

Diabetes in a Nutshell

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in the human population in this country, so most of our pet parents have some concept of what this disease is and how it can affect the body. Many people are shocked to find out, though, that our pets can develop this disease, too.

Diabetes is a defect in the body’s processing of glucose (sugar). In a normal patient, the hormone insulin is used to help transport glucose from our diet into the body’s cells. Within the cells it is then used as a source of energy.

In a diabetic patient this does not happen normally. This may be due to decreased insulin production, in which the pancreas simply does not pump out enough insulin to process the glucose that is present. Some patients also experience insulin resistance, in which the body requires much higher amounts of insulin than a typical patient.

No matter what the underlying reason is, if the body is unable to transport glucose into the cells it builds up in the blood stream. This excess of glucose in the bloodstream can result in the classic symptoms of diabetes including:

  • Decreased energy
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination

Untreated, affected pets who have diabetes may also experience things like urinary tract infections, or trouble walking (cats), or the development of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Many dogs with diabetes will also develop cataracts.

Treating Diabetes

Thankfully, most pets who develop diabetes are able to live long, happy lives with a little bit of extra care.

If we suspect diabetes, it is very important that we confirm our diagnosis as many other diseases can have similar symptoms. It is also important for us to manage other complicating factors such as excess weight or infections (dental disease and urinary tract infections are common ones) that may make your pet’s condition harder to control.

While people often respond to dietary changes and/or oral medications, diabetes in pets typically requires insulin injections to manage well. Daily injections can be a little intimidating at first, but almost all owners and pets handle this task.

Diabetic pets need some extra attention, especially as we work to find their appropriate insulin dose. We must monitor closely both at home and in the hospital to find the right diet and  exercise program that works best for the individual patient.

Preventing Diabetes in Pets

We don’t always know why diabetes develops, and it is likely that there is some genetic component to the development of diabetes in pets. There are certainly some things that you can do, though, to help your pet stay healthier.

  • Feed a high quality diet, avoiding table scraps
  • Promote a healthy body weight with a controlled diet and exercise
  • Bring your pet in for regular wellness visits.
  • Allow routine screening tests as recommended

Be sure to  bring up any concerns at your pet’s visits so that we can identify and treat diabetes early if it occurs. Some pets, especially cats, can enter remission if caught early and treated aggressively.

Diabetes in pets can be a scary but manageable diagnosis. Most diabetic pets live long, healthy lives with a little help from their owners. If you think that your pet may be having a problem, please call to schedule an appointment right away so that we can get started helping your four-legged family member.