Senior Cat

Diabetes in Pets

November is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes in pets can be a serious situation, but can also be easily managed, especially if it is caught early.

Diabetes in pets can occur at any age, but is more common in older pets. In dogs, diabetes occurs in females twice as often as males. In cats, males are more likely to be diagnosed. Certain breeds may be more predisposed to diabetes than others. Siamese cats seem to be over-represented in diabetes cases. Dog breeds include Samoyeds, Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Poodles, Beagles, etc.

What exactly is diabetes and what does a diagnosis mean for your pet? Diabetes in pets is a condition that occurs when the body cannot use and absorb glucose normally because of deficient insulin production. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and controls the level of glucose in the blood. Type I Diabetes is when the body doesn’t make enough insulin and is more commonly seen in dogs. Type II Diabetes is when the body has some insulin being produced, but it is either not enough or something is interfering with its ability to be used by the body. Type II Diabetes is more commonly seen in cats. In either case, because glucose (the main source of energy for the body’s cells) is unable to adequately be absorbed, there is not enough energy for the cells to function normally and clinical signs may become apparent.

Because the tissues are starved for energy, the body may begin to breakdown this tissue and weight loss may occur. Other symptoms of diabetes in pets may include excessive thirst and urination, changes in appetite, cloudy eyes, lethargy, poor skin condition, etc. If you notice any of these symptoms it is important to get your pet to a veterinarian for diagnostic testing. 

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Once diagnosed, generally diabetes treatment consists of twice a day injections of insulin, regular examinations and monitoring, diet changes and physical exercise. With early treatment, the prognosis of diabetes in pets is very good. Periodic adjustments in treatment may be needed to ensure that your pet is getting the proper dosage of insulin. The goal in managing diabetes in pets is to keep your pet’s blood sugar near normal levels. 

Diabetes in pets can be managed with medication, but lifestyle changes are an important piece of the puzzle. Veterinarians will usually recommend a high-fiber diet for dogs and a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for cats. Daily exercise is also important, taking into consideration your pet’s age, weight and overall health.

As a pet owner, pay attention to changes in your pet’s behavior, physical appearance and activity. The earlier the diagnosis of diabetes, the better the treatment options and the greater opportunity your pet has to living a long, healthy life.