National Diabetes Month was created to raise awareness of the disease in humans, but as canine and feline diabetes are also on the rise, it’s a great time to learn about diabetes in pets.
When a healthy pet eats, his body breaks carbohydrates down into sugar – specifically, glucose. His pancreas then releases insulin into the bloodstream, which acts as a “key” that allows the glucose to enter the cells of the body, providing energy.
With diabetes mellitus in pets, the body is not producing enough insulin – either because production of insulin has dropped, or the body has developed a resistance to it. When the insulin can’t escort the glucose into the cells, two things happen: the cells don’t have energy to function properly, and the level of glucose in the blood gets too high.
The classic signs that your pet may have diabetes mellitus include:
- Increased thirst and drinking
- Increased urination
- Weight loss, despite a normal or even increased appetite
- Lethargy, poor coat condition, just not being himself
If left untreated, diabetes mellitus can lead to serious complications in both cats and dogs.
The bad news is, it can’t always be prevented. To give your pet his best chance, be sure to feed a high-quality diet that your veterinarian has okayed, and get plenty of exercise together so that your pet maintains a healthy weight – obesity often goes along with this disease. But despite all of this, some pets will get diabetes anyway.
The good news is, diabetes mellitus is a highly manageable disease in both cats and dogs – but it takes commitment from you, the owner.
Like in many people, diabetes is treated with insulin injections, usually twice a day. Some people are concerned that they won’t be able to give the injections, either because their cats or dogs won’t allow it, or because they are afraid of hurting their beloved pets. But this worry is unwarranted. Most cats and dogs tolerate the injections very well – in fact, some don’t even notice the pinch! It can be a positive experience if you approach it calmly, confidently, and with lots of praise and love.
If you notice any of the signs of diabetes in your pet, or something just seems “off,” discuss it with your veterinarian. As long as the disease is well managed, pets can live a long and happy life!