November is National Diabetes Month, so we wanted to take this opportunity to spread awareness about the health risks associated with pet diabetes. If left untreated, diabetes can be life-threatening in dogs and cats. Our Tucson vet has some tips to help identify and manage diabetes in pets.

What is Diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes mellitus, type I and type II. Type I diabetes prevents the body from producing enough insulin. This means that your pet would require lifelong insulin injections to keep their body functioning properly. This condition is more common in dogs, and it is a lifelong health condition. Type II diabetes is more common in cats, and it is transient, meaning that your pet may only be dependent on insulin injections for months instead of for life.

The lack of necessary insulin in the body causes an increase in glucose production. This glucose can't be properly absorbed without the necessary insulin, which leads to an accumulation of glucose in the bloodstream. This condition is called hyperglycemia, and leads to frequent urination and thirst. In diabetic pets, there is never enough glucose in the body's cells. This causes the body to break down fat and muscles, which causes weight loss. It's typically easier to distinguish between type I and type II diabetes in humans than it is in pets. But there are some key symptoms to look out for in a diabetic pet.

Signs of diabetes in pets include:

  • frequent thirst
  • frequent urination
  • urination in unusual places
  • blindness
  • lethargy
  • weight loss
  • oily hair coat

Pets Most at Risk

Some breeds are more likely to develop diabetes than others. In dogs, the most common breeds to develop diabetes include the Samoyed, Keeshond, Miniature Pinscher, Cairn terrier, Schnauzer, Australian terrier, Dachshund, Poodle, Beagle, and Bichon Frise, with female dogs having a higher risk. In cats, Siamese are more likely to develop diabetes, with the males being at a higher risk. Most pets don't show signs of diabetes until they are around age 7-10.

Treating Pet Diabetes

Treatment varies depending on the unique needs of the patient, but generally does require injections of insulin for proper bodily function. Diet may be adjusted to help manage diabetes symptoms. Our Tucson vet generally recommends a low-carb and high-protein diet. Some daily exercise should also be incorporated into a pet's daily routine, especially if they require weight loss as part of their treatment plan. To learn more about the needs of your specific pet, you'll need to schedule a visit with our vet for a proper check-up and physical examination.

Protect Your Pet's Health

Animals living with diabetes are more at risk for developing other health issues. Dental disease is more common for diabetic animals, and they are typically slower to heal. This means that gum disease, mouth sores, and dental decay may be more difficult to heal. Diabetic pets are also likely to develop hyperthyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism, pancreatitis, heart disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and skin infections.

Being proactive with your pet's health and wellness will help you identify diabetes symptoms early and start treatment. If properly managed, pets can live long and happy lives with diabetes. Make sure you are bringing your pet in for annual wellness visits so that they can be seen by our Tucson vet on a regular basis. This helps us monitor changes in your pet's health and run the proper tests necessary to diagnose diabetes.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing diabetes requires testing performed by our Tucson vet. Your pet would need to show consistent signs of hyperglycemia and glucosuria. Additional blood tests may be required to rule out other possible health issues. Treatment of confirmed diabetes may need some adjustment overtime to find the right health plan for your pet. The treatment of diabetes is very personal and requires frequent monitoring and adjusting to help your pet thrive.

Caring for a pet living with diabetes requires a lifelong commitment to managing your pet's health needs. You'll need to keep your pet's blood sugar at a normal level, and you'll likely need to adjust their diet. Patience is key when it comes to managing your pet's diabetes, and keep a close eye on them to protect their health. Typically, dogs require a high-fiber diet and a strict exercise regimen to help maintain their weight. Cats typically require more protein and less carbs, but it can be more challenging to exercise them.

It is important to stick to your pet's insulin schedule to avoid health issues. Insulin overdose may cause weakness, tremors, seizures, and loss of appetite. These symptoms can also occur as a result of insulin underdose, so managing your pet's levels is key. Frequent check-ins with our veterinarian can help you understand where your pet's levels should be to avoid complications. Some long-term symptoms can occur such as cataracts, hind leg weakness, high blood pressure, and UTIs. If you notice any abnormal behavior in your pet, or if they start to have seizures, talk to us about how we can adjust their treatment plan to accommodate their changing health needs.

For specific instructions on how to manage your pet's diabetes symptoms, call our Tucson vet to schedule an appointment. Our team can help you develop the right health plan for your pet so that they can live a long and comfortable life. Call Pet Doctor X to schedule your pet's next visit with us.