It’s pet diabetes month, and what better way to focus on this common issue in cats and dogs than with help from your Felton Veterinary Hospital team? When we think about diabetes, our pets may not be at the top of our minds, but this debilitating disease is rising in both people and pets alike. According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2016 State of Pet Health Report, diabetes in dogs increased by nearly 80 percent from 2006 to 2015. 

Diabetes is more common in middle-aged and older pets, but any pet can be affected. In addition, the disease commonly leads to other conditions, such as heart, kidney, and liver disease and cataracts. So pet owners must be aware of the risks and signs of diabetes in pets and how to prevent this disease from affecting their beloved pet. 

The good news is that with early detection, you and your veterinarian can successfully manage the disease through diet, exercise, regular monitoring, and treatment. With mindful interventions, pets with diabetes can still live healthy, long lives. 

What is Diabetes?

When either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to address the amount of glucose consumed by your pet or the body cannot respond appropriately to the available insulin. Insulin is the hormone that must be present for glucose (energy) to enter the cells. The pet’s cells cannot receive enough energy to function properly if there is insufficient insulin or an abnormal insulin response.   As a result, the pet’s muscles and fat tissue begin to break down, pets lose weight and feel generally unwell, and the buildup of glucose in the blood causes hyperglycemia. 

Signs of Diabetes in Pets

Hyperglycemia causes glucose and large amounts of water to be expelled in the urine, causing pets to drink more water and urinate more. These two telltale signs of diabetes are often accompanied by: 

  • Increased appetite (early on in the disease)
  • Increased urination, sometimes with accidents
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite (as the disease progresses)
  • Lethargy
  • Pungent or sweet-smelling breath
  • Overall weakness
  • Vomiting/dehydration
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Cataracts (in dogs)

The earlier in the disease progression we can catch and begin to treat diabetes, the more successful the outcome will be and the better your pet will feel. If you notice any of the signs above, please call us to schedule an appointment. 

Which Pets Are At Risk?

Older pets are at increased risk of diabetes, especially senior male cats and female and senior dogs. Overweight or obese pets are also at greater risk of developing the disease. Additionally, certain breeds of dogs have a genetic predisposition to the disease. These breeds include:

  • Miniature Poodle
  • Bischon Frises
  • Pugs
  • Dachshunds
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Pulis
  • Samoyeds
  • Keeshonds
  • Australian Terriers
  • Fox Terriers
  • Cairn Terriers
  • Beagles

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of diabetes begins with a complete medical history as well as a comprehensive physical exam. We will then measure glucose levels in both the blood and urine and may recommend additional blood tests to determine the extent of the disease. 

Once we have a diagnosis, your veterinarian will offer a comprehensive treatment plan, including diet and exercise recommendations. We will also prescribe an initial type and dose of insulin. As insulin is necessary to regulate diabetes, we will teach you how to give these injections at home. These treatments may seem overwhelming initially, but we can help you incorporate insulin injections into your daily pet care routine. 

The goal of caring for your diabetic pet is to keep their blood glucose levels near normal and to avoid allowing blood glucose to get too high or too low. In cats, diabetic remission is a reasonable goal. In dogs, lifelong control is the goal! You will monitor your pet’s appetite, drinking, urination, glucose levels, and weight at home. Regular blood and urine testing at our office are also necessary, so we can make adjustments to keep your pet feeling their best. 

Preventing Diabetes in Cats and Dogs

Diabetes in pets cannot be “cured,” and although we can’t always prevent the disease, there are things we can do as responsible pet parents to minimize the chances of our pets being affected. Obesity is a significant risk factor, so commit to a healthy lifestyle for your pet with the following tips: 

  • Maintain a healthy weight for your pet
  • Provide your pet with a healthy, nutritious diet
  • Provide daily exercise
  • Schedule a pet wellness exam every year (or more as they age)
  • Schedule any routine health screenings as recommended

Thankfully, even if our pets still wind up with diabetes, most of them respond very well to treatment, and your team at Felton Veterinary Hospital is here to help. Contact us with any questions or concerns about diabetes in pets.