Written By Shauna Jensen, RVT
November is Pet Diabetes month, so veterinarians everywhere are on the forefront to talk to their clients about Diabetes. The most common Diabetes in pets is Diabetes Mellitus. This is when the body is not producing enough insulin. This can be because the production of insulin has dropped or the body has developed a resistance to insulin, so there is not enough insulin to meet the body’s demand.
There are risk factors in dogs and cats that can increase their likelihood for developing diabetes.
For dogs, some risk factors include age (being middle aged or senior), gender (female or a neutered male dog), obesity (can make the body’s cells resistant to insulin), diet (lower quality diets), inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis), as well as having Cushing’s disease (the body produces too much cortisol)
For cats, some risk factors include obesity, high carbohydrate diets, gender (male neutered cats), age (older than 6 years). Cat’s can also be at higher risk of developing diabetes if they have any chronic disease such as kidney insufficiency or hyperthyroidism.
Since nutrition and obesity are the main factors that pet owners can influence, it is very important that pets are being fed the most appropriate, high quality diet and that their weight is being monitored and managed by their veterinary healthcare team.
Normally when a healthy pet eats, his body will break down carbohydrates from his food into glucose. The pancreas will then release insulin into the bloodstream which will escort glucose into the body’s cells, providing them with energy.
When there isn’t enough insulin getting glucose into the body’s cells, the cells won’t have energy to properly function and the blood glucose level rise.
Some signs that your pet could be diabetic are
– increased urination
– increased thirst/drinking
– weight loss
– increased appetite
– poor hair coat
If diabetes is left untreated it can lead to serious health complications in pets. The cells are unable to get energy and they start to starve. This causes the body to start breaking down fat in order to try and provide the cells with energy. When fat breakdowns, it creates ketones which are extremely hazardous to the body, and can develop in Diabetic Ketoacidosis. Symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis include, but are not limited to weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and loss of appetite. If still left untreated, symptoms can progress to seizures, coma and death.
Diabetes can be managed well if caught early. Treating for diabetes typically involves giving insulin injections twice a day. Most pets tolerate the injections quite well, and many don’t even notice them. A dietary change is also recommended to help regulate diabetic pets. By diagnosing Diabetes early, and starting pets on the appropriate dose of insulin, pets will have better regulation of their blood glucose and reduce their risk of diabetic complications. If you do think your pet might be diabetic, please contact your veterinary healthcare team.