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Pet Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes, is a serious condition that affects a growing number of people every year, but many don’t realize that the number of dogs with diabetes or cats with diabetes is also on the rise. In fact, many of the medications, equipments, and monitoring systems are the same for pets and people. Diabetes occurs when a human or animal’s pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to safely absorb the glucose in foods for use in the body. Diabetes in dogs is most commonly found in middle-aged dogs. Diabetes is also commonly found in cats and ferrets. Obesity is also a contributing factor.

Diabetes exists in two forms:

Type 1 – the pancreas is not producing insulin

Type 2 – the pancreas is producing insufficient insulin or the insulin being produced is ineffective

Type 3 - hormone-induced, insulin resistance develops in association with high concentrations of progesterone

Type 1 diabetes is the most common form in dogs while Type 2 is the most common form in cats.

Detection of Diabetes in Pets

The symptoms of diabetes can easily be confused for other conditions. If you recognize a combination of any of the symptoms listed below, contact your veterinarian immediately for proper testing.

Dog Diabetes Symptoms

  • increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • muscle wasting
  • lack of energy
  • thinning, dry, or dull hair

Cat Diabetes Symptoms

  • increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • increased appetite with stable weight or weight loss
  • thinning, dry, or dull hair

Ferrets Diabetes Symptoms:

  • increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • lack of energy

Diagnosing Diabetes in Your Dog or Cat

To ensure an accurate diagnosis, your veterinarian will collect blood and urine from your pet to check for elevated glucose and the presence of ketones.  Cats are particularly prone to having high gluocse in their blood during stress, such as the stress of having their blood taken.  For this reason cats usually require an additional test to measure fructosamine in their blood. Excessive glucose and/or fructosamine levels in a pet’s blood and urine indicate insufficient insulin production and confirm the diagnosis of diabetes.

Complications of Diabetes in Pets

If a diabetic pet is not properly cared for, a number of complications can arise. An excess of glucose in the blood can cause a diabetic coma, while insufficient levels of glucose can lead to diabetic seizure, both of which require emergency medical attention. In cats, weakness of the hind legs (diabetic neuropathy) is a common complication of uncontrolled diabetes. Inadequate control in dogs commonly leads to the development of cataracts. Some dogs' diabetes is very difficult to control and cataracts are difficult to prevent.

Management of Dog Diabetes or Cat Diabetes

With veterinary oversight and responsible care, diabetes doesn’t have to impact your pet’s quality of life or life expectancy. Depending on which type of diabetes your pet has, your veterinarian will prescribe daily insulin injections to regulate your pet’s blood sugars. Along with regular injections and veterinary check-ups, daily exercise and a controlled diet are essential to regulating your pet’s blood sugars. 

If you suspect your pet may be at risk for developing diabetes or if you’d like to keep your diabetic pet’s blood sugars more consistent, consult with your veterinarian. In addition to providing diagnosis and treatment, your veterinarian can advise you on lifestyle changes to improve your pet’s overall health quality of life.

November is National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month, and while this month was originally designed to increase awareness of this common endocrine disease in humans, we need to be aware of the growing prevalence of diabetes mellitis in dogs and cats also. Untreated, diabetes mellitus can be fatal in dogs and cats, however diabetic pets can live happy, healthy lives when their diabetes is well-regulated.