Pet Diabetes Is on the Rise. Do You Know What Signs to Look For?

Autoimmune Disease In PetsIt’s interesting that the increasing incidence of diabetes mellitus in pets mirrors the pet obesity epidemic we discussed in an earlier post. Coincidence? Not at all. As in humans, obesity is a large risk factor for diabetes. According to Diabetes Voice, obesity increases the risk of developing diabetes about 3 to 5 fold. That’s pretty alarming. But the good news is, with early detection, perhaps during your pet’s annual health exam, and proper management, your diabetic dog or cat can live a long and happy life. But it does take work on your part.

About Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, sometimes called sugar diabetes, is a chronic endocrine system disease. It is usually divided into 2 types: Type 1 is caused by the destruction of pancreatic cells that produce insulin, and Type 2 is caused by the body’s resistance to insulin. (Obesity often leads to insulin resistance.) Without insulin, the cells of the body cannot metabolize carbohydrates, leading to abnormally high blood glucose levels. Diabetes in dogs is almost always classified as Type 1, and feline diabetes is nearly always Type 2. In dogs, diabetes is most common in overweight females over the age of 5, and in cats, it is seen most often in overweight males older than 5.

Symptoms of Diabetes

With diabetes, the high levels of sugar in the blood spill over into the urine, causing frequent urination in both dogs and cats. The frequent urination leads to excessive thirst in your animals. Although the blood has an overload of glucose, the body cannot use it for nourishment. As a result, the body begins to burn fat for energy, often causing extreme weight loss and a ravenous appetite. Sugar in the urine also attracts bacteria so urinary tract infections are common in animals with diabetes. Other symptoms include peeing accidents in the house, dehydration, lackluster coat, weakness in the legs and cataracts.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you notice any of the symptoms of diabetes, it’s important to get your dog or cat to their veterinarian quickly. Diabetes has a better prognosis the sooner treatment starts. The doctor will take a history, do an examination, and if the clinical signs suggest diabetes, will perform some blood tests and check the urine for sugar.

If a diagnosis of diabetes is confirmed, your dog or cat will likely need insulin injections to maintain proper blood glucose levels. Because every animal is different, your veterinarian will need to perform a blood glucose profile to determine the type of insulin and proper dosage. This test consists of administering an insulin injection and measuring blood glucose levels at various intervals over an 8-hour (sometimes longer) time period. The test results will help the doctor prescribe how often you will need to give your furry friend an injection. Don’t worry, the injection goes under the skin using a needle so fine that your pet likely won’t even feel it.

Diet and exercise are also very important factors in diabetes management. Owners need to monitor their pet’s appetite, water intake and urination. Your veterinarian can guide you in a proper diet and exercise regimen. The bad news is that you will need to continue to take these measures throughout your friend’s life. But the good news is that by working closely with your veterinarian to provide optimal care for your pet, he or she can live a long, normal life. Yes, it takes a few lifestyle changes and dedication, but your dog or cat are worth it. After all, our pets are family, and they deserve the extra effort.

If you’ve noticed any changes in your pet’s behavior or appearance, give Powell Veterinary Service a call at 970-352-9164. We can either rule out diabetes, or start your furry friend on a diabetic treatment plan. Either way, it’s good to know.