Pets Can Have Diabetes Too

How to Manage Diabetes in Pets

Diabetes is a chronic condition that not only affects humans but animals as well. Dogs, cats, pigs, horses and, apes – this unfortunate endocrine disorder can take a toll on the health of all of these. While diabetes can occur in younger pets as well, they are more common in older pets. And, therefore, you need to be more careful if your pet is aging. The good news is that, with good care, diabetes in pets can also be managed and they can also lead a happy, healthy life. This post tries to put some light on the same – how diabetes can affect your pets and how it can be managed with the help of a vet and your own effort.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a condition that occurs when the body fails to use glucose properly. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the body’s cells. When insulin - a hormone that controls the levels of glucose in the blood – is not sufficient or if the body doesn’t respond to it normally, high levels of glucose accumulate in the blood. With the passage of time, this condition can damage your nerves and blood vessels and lead to cardiac diseases and other health issues.

According to the latest CDC Report, more than 100 million Americans now have diabetes or prediabetes. The same report also suggests that nearly 1 in 4 four adults living with diabetes – 7.2 million Americans – didn’t know they had the condition. As with humans, many pet owners are also unaware that their pets have diabetes. As a result, many domestic pets, such as dogs and cats, also go undiagnosed and untreated for diabetes until the symptoms begin to cause noticeable problems for them.

What causes diabetes in pets?

As mentioned earlier, older pets are more prone to getting diabetes. But, this doesn’t mean that younger pets are safe. This early onset may be caused by genetic factors. Also, overweight dogs are more at risk of getting diabetes. While any breed can develop insulin deficiencies resulting in diabetes, certain dog breeds, such as miniature toy poodles and Miniature Schnauzers, are more commonly affected with diabetes than other breeds. Other risk factors may include improper diets, feeding of high-fat diets, pregnancy, Cushing’s disease, steroid medications, chronic or repeated pancreatitis, and other environmental influences. In cats, the condition is sometimes short-lived.

What are the symptoms of diabetes in pets?

Symptoms of diabetes in pets include:

  • Excessive thirst due to dehydration
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger or loss of appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Irritability and other behavioral changes
  • Loss of energy
  • Repeated infections

In the advanced stages of diabetes, cataracts, neurological disorders, seizures, kidney failure, urinary tract infections and ketoacidosis may also occur. Ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening acute condition that can be accompanied by vomiting, dehydration, rapid breathing, lethargy, or sweet-smelling breath.

How diabetes is diagnosed in pets?

Your veterinarian will do simple blood and urine tests to check for excessive glucose (sugar) in the pet’s body. Blood tests can also show other signs of diabetes, such as high liver enzymes and electrolyte imbalances.

Early detection is the best way that any pet owner can begin to treat an animal that is displaying the signs and symptoms of diabetes. The earlier a pet is treated, the better its chances of enjoying a good quality of life despite having diabetes. Cats that are treated early are also likely to only have transient diabetes, which is a reversible form of the disease, as opposed to being afflicted with diabetes for the rest of their lives.

How to treat and manage diabetes in pets?

Once a pet has been tested positive for diabetes, keeping it under control with regular insulin supplements and a diabetic pet diet is crucial in assuring that the animal’s symptoms don’t worsen and become life-threatening.  Your veterinarian will devise a management plan that works best for your pet.

In general, he will provide you with the following information to control diabetes:

—  Insulin therapy and instruction on how to properly administer daily injections

—  Diet recommendations or how many calories your pet needs every day

—  Exercise recommendations

—  A daily glucose-monitoring system that will work best for your pet

—  How to monitor pet at home to keep his blood sugar under check

—  Any warning signs to watch out for

As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to make frequent visits to your vet and have your pet checked regularly for testing and medication adjustments. Since you play a very crucial role in your dog’s care, you have to keep up with his daily shots of insulin and maintain proper diet as suggested.

Following are some other tips to help you manage diabetes in pets:

1)   A nutritious diet is very important to minimize fluctuations in blood glucose and maintain your pets at a healthy weight. You can feed them store-bought food. But your vet may recommend prescription dog food or a homemade diet ideal for your pet’s current health condition.

2)   Researchers suggest that high-fiber, low-fat diet is best for your diabetic pets. This is because fiber slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and helps your dog feel full. Low-fat foods have fewer calories, which helps them lose weight.

3)   Keep your pet hydrated always. Since fiber diet absorbs water from the body, that can cause constipation and other problems. So, it’s important to make sure your pet drinks plenty of water.

4)   Regular exercise helps your pet lose weight and lower blood sugar levels. Make sure to have your pet exercise for the same length of time and at the same intensity every day. An intense workout or vigorous exercise could cause blood sugar levels to drop too low.

How to prevent diabetes in pets?

The best way to avoid diabetes in pets is to make sure that dogs and cats are eating a healthy diet, avoiding obesity, and getting proper amounts of exercise. Store bought pet foods are specially formulated for a pet’s dietary needs, or owners may opt for serving homemade meals with recipes that are targeted specifically for dogs and cats. To prevent diabetes and other illnesses, it is best to avoid feeding animals foods that may not supply all of the nourishment that they need, and snacks foods, especially sweets intended for human consumption, should always be avoided.

The Bottom Line

It’s true that managing pet diabetes takes extra effort and care on behalf of the pet’s owner. If you ever feel any sort of discouragement, reach out to supportive networks of other pet owners who are faced with the daily task of caring for a pet with diabetes. A growing number of resources are also available to educate pet owners on the issue of pet diabetes. For more information on diabetes in pets, you can visit American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Pet Diabetes Month.