November is National Pet Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a condition that affects both cats and dogs, as well as humans. Diabetes in animals is very similar to diabetes in humans. However, when it comes to our furry friends, it can be difficult for them to communicate when something is amiss. It is up to us as pet parents to look for signs something might be wrong, and get our pets the treatments they need. With diabetes, the common signs you may notice in your pet are increased thirst, increased urination, and weight loss in spite of an increased or excessive appetite. Lethargy, having urinary ‘accidents’ when fully housebroken, cloudy eyes in dogs, lack of grooming in cats, and a dull, thinning coat can also be symptoms. If your pet is displaying these signs, you should see your veterinarian right away.
Diabetes Mellitus is the most common form of diabetes seen in cats and dogs, and is a disease of the pancreas (the other type, diabetes insipidus, is much rarer in both dogs and cats and affects the body’s ability to conserve water. The body releases too much water, often leading to dehydration). In animals with diabetes mellitus, their bodies do not process insulin—the substance that turns glucose, or sugar from food into fuel for the body— properly, or does not make enough of it. Without insulin or not enough of it, in your pet’s body, glucose builds up in the bloodstream. As a result, your pet may act as though they are constantly starving or malnourished; this is because their body is not using the food they are consuming effectively for energy.
Diabetes mellitus is quite a common disease, with between 1 in 100 to 1 in 500 animals believed to be affected, with those numbers on the rise. Diabetes is often seen in middle-aged to older animals, animals that are overweight or obese, female dogs and male cats. Other risk factors for diabetes come from genetic predisposition to the disease and breed.
While there is no cure for diabetes, it is possible to manage it well for your pet and enable them to still lead a full, active life. Most pets with diabetes mellitus will require a daily insulin injection and diet regulation. They will need to be fed the same amount and type of food at the same times every day. A regular exercise routine is also beneficial. However, once a pet’s diabetes is properly regulated, prognosis is good and they are able to enjoy a high quality of life with little side effects or symptoms. However, if undiagnosed and left untreated, diabetes can lead to other health problems, including cataracts, urinary tract infections, and eventually coma and death.
National diabetes month was created to bring awareness to this disease that affects a large number of animals, especially as they age, and ensure they are getting the veterinary treatment and care needed to manage this condition. If you have noticed any of the signs or symptoms outlined above, make sure you have your pet seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose, treat your pet, and advise you on ongoing management for your pet’s condition. They will be able to answer any questions you may have. Remember each pet is different and thus, diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management will be tailored to each individual pet. The earlier this condition is diagnosed and regulated, the better prognosis and outlook your pet will have. With proper management, there is no reason your pet’s life expectancy should be any different from a pet’s without diabetes.