Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death among people in the United States, and our pets aren’t far behind in falling victim to this disease. Studies show that diabetes now affects a whopping 1 in 50 dogs and cats, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Because diabetes in pets is more common than most people realize, combating this disease requires education and diligence on the part of responsible pet owners.
Diabetes mellitus, the most common form of the condition in pets, is a disease of the pancreas. In a healthy animal, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that allows the body to utilize sugar and energy, and regulate the blood sugar levels. In a diabetic pet, the pancreas either cannot produce enough insulin to process the sugar or the pet’s body cannot effectively use the insulin, leading to insulin resistance.
When a pet cannot produce or utilize insulin, its blood sugar levels become elevated, causing a condition called hyperglycemia. Serious and complicated health problems will result and, if left untreated, the pet will become very ill and die.
Does My Pet Have Diabetes?
Diabetes in pets can manifest in subtle ways, and many of the symptoms are similar to those experienced by human diabetes sufferers. Signs that your pet may have diabetes include:
- Excessive thirst
- Increased appetite (early in the disease)
- Decreased appetite (as the disease advances)
- More frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Pungent breath (often described as having a “sweet” or “chemical” odor)
- Overall weakness
- Cloudy eyes
Catching the disease in its early stages is critical in the successful treatment of your pet. It’s important to be familiar with your dog or cat’s baseline health so that you can catch any changes in behavior or appearance early. Give us a call right away if your pet is experiencing any of the above symptoms. Our veterinarian will want to thoroughly examine your pet, and check its blood and urine to determine if diabetes is the cause.
Managing Diabetes in Pets
While there is no cure for diabetes, it can often be successfully managed through dietary changes, proper weight management, and medication.
Regulating a pet may take several months, as it often involves dosage adjustments to the medication, which can require monitoring for several days and weeks in order to find the ideal level for that pet. And, although the symptoms may diminish with treatment, it’s important to keep your pet on his or her diabetes medication as prescribed by your veterinarian. Many diabetic pets will need to stay on their medication to maintain healthy blood sugar levels throughout their lives.
Prevention is Key
The specific cause or causes of diabetes is unknown and probably varies among individual pets, but there are certain steps you can take to reduce your pet’s chances of developing the disease:
- Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of diabetes. Our veterinarian will be happy to determine an ideal weight for your pet, as well as provide food and portion recommendations.
- Provide your pet with a high-quality, nutritious diet.
- Make sure your pet gets plenty of activity and exercise every day.
Your team at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center is committed to helping your pet live the longest, happiest, and healthiest life possible. Please call us if you have any questions or concerns about pet diabetes.