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Diabetes is a chronic disease that can affect a variety of different animal species. The metabolic condition is incurable and requires constant management on the part of the pet’s owner. Knowing when your pet is displaying the symptoms of diabetes can help you get them diagnosed as early as possible so that you can get the disease under control.
So, how can you tell if your pet has diabetes? First, you should be on the lookout for these symptoms:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased hunger
- Sudden weight loss
- Thinning hair
If you start to see your dog or cat displaying any of these symptoms, contact a veterinarian to get your pet tested.
Types of Diabetes
In dogs, there are two different types of diabetes that you should be aware of:
- Insulin-deficiency diabetes: This type of diabetes occurs when your dog’s body isn’t producing enough insulin, and it is generally caused by a damaged or malfunctioning pancreas. Insulin shots are necessary to replace the missing insulin in the dog’s body. Insulin-deficiency diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in dogs.
- Insulin-resistance diabetes: This type of diabetes occurs when your dog’s body is producing some insulin but isn’t using the insulin as it should. In these cases, the glucose isn’t being pulled out of the blood and into the cells the way it should. Insulin-resistance diabetes usually occurs in older, obese dogs.
In cats, there are also two types of diabetes, and they are very similar to the types found in dogs. Here are the two types of diabetes that afflict cats:
- Type I: Type I diabetes is rare in cats, but it occurs when the production of insulin decreases in the body.
- Type II: Type II diabetes occurs when glucose levels in the blood increase because the body is not responding appropriately to the insulin produced by the pancreas.
Diagnosing Diabetes in Pets
To get officially diagnosed with diabetes, your pet will need blood and urine tests that look at glucose concentrations. These tests, along with any of the symptoms your pet has been experiencing will indicate whether or not your pet has diabetes. Early diagnosis is key to ensuring that your pet stays healthy despite the diagnosis.
Importance of Early Diagnosis
When diabetes goes undiagnosed and untreated for an extended period of time, pets can experience a condition called ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a serious condition in which your pet’s blood contains an abnormally high level of acid due to the presence of ketone bodies in the blood. Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening medical condition that may include symptoms like dehydration, lethargy, rapid breathing, vomiting, and sweet-smelling breath.
Diabetes can’t be cured, but treatment is necessary to ensure that your pet has a long, healthy life despite the diagnosis.
Treatment will require insulin injections. At first, your veterinarian will provide the initial dose and type of insulin for your pet. You will need to give your pet daily injections, so your veterinarian will teach you how to properly give the injections under your pet’s skin. Insulin prescriptions may need to be changed over time. This means that regular visits to a vet are important to monitor the treatment process.
Diet changes are also very common in pets with diabetes. There might be a specific food that your vet wants you to try for your pet to help keep their blood sugar levels in balance. For dogs, this is often a high-fiber diet. For cats, vets often recommend a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet.
Exercise is also recommended for pets with diabetes, especially those that are already overweight. For dog owners, making sure your dog gets adequate exercise can be achieved with walks, trips to the dog park, or games of fetch. It is a little more difficult for cat owners, but toys that engage your cat’s predatory instinct can help you get them the exercise that they need.
Diabetes Risk Factors
Some pets are more likely to develop diabetes than others. What makes one pet more likely to get diabetes than another?
- Age: Diabetes can affect animals of all ages, but it most often occurs in middle-aged to senior pets. In fact, most pets don’t develop the disease until they are five or older.
- Gender: In dogs, unspayed females are more likely to have diabetes than male dogs. In cats, however, males are more likely to develop the endocrine disease.
- Obesity: Your pet’s weight can contribute to their risk for diabetes. Obese pets are more likely to develop insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can lead to the development of diabetes.
- Genetics: Diabetes can affect dogs and cats of any breed, but some breeds are more likely to be at-risk for diabetes. Dog breeds that are at a higher risk for developing diabetes include miniature Poodles, Pugs, Dachshunds, Puli, Samoyed, Keeshonds, Fox Terriers, Australian Terriers, Beagles, and more.
If you believe that your pet has diabetes, be sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away.