April is Defeat Diabetes Month. While this is geared toward humans, I’d like to give you some information on diabetes in pets.
Canine diabetes, unless caused by another underlying condition, cannot go into remission. Felines can go into remission, but by the time their symptoms are observed, they almost always need to be put on insulin. Thanks to today’s advancements, however, the life span and quality of life for diabetic animals can be just as it would for unaffected pets.
Getting more exercise and eating a healthy diet are the two main ways to try to avoid developing diabetes. Unfortunately we cannot control a pet’s age or genetics. If there are other factors causing your pet’s glucose level to be too high, you should develop a treatment plan with your vet to lower their chances of remaining diabetic.
Most pets who are diagnosed are middle-aged or older. Those who develop it at a younger age most likely had a genetic disposition to it. Age, weight, amount of exercise, genes, hormones, and even some medications can contribute to developing diabetes.
Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst and urination, increased appetite, weight loss (in spite of spike in appetite), and weakness or lethargy. Unfortunately, we usually notice these signs once the disease is at a stage where they will need treatment.
Side effects of diabetes, if left untreated, include kidney or bladder infections, skin problems, cataracts, dehydration, and neuropathy, or limb weakness.
The important thing is to catch it early, so that your dog or cat can be properly treated to avoid more serious complications. Our veterinarians recommend yearly bloodwork and urine checks, which monitor the chemicals in the blood and urine. Among other things, they test the glucose level in blood and urine. If your pet’s glucose is higher than normal, they may need to be put on a special diet, insulin, or other medications. Your vet will most likely need to do follow-up diagnostics to make sure that the proper type and amount of medication is prescribed.
Once a pet is diagnosed with diabetes, it is very important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions. Diabetic pets must be monitored closely, and kept on an appropriate routine, to ensure that they don’t have a hypoglycemic episode. Keeping their insulin and glucose levels stable is very important for their well-being, and if they’re not under control, they can cause serious and expensive medical complications.
I’ve had to take two of my cats in for possible diabetes. Both times it ended up being another problem (a urinary tract infection and bladder crystals), but I prepared myself while I was waiting to hear the diagnosis. I was ready to treat them, knowing it can be a complicated treatment, but I know that they can have long, happy lives even with diabetes. Luckily for the techs, neither of my cats are diabetic – these two are not very friendly when I take them to the vet. Hopefully it won’t be a concern later in their life, but if it is, I’m ready to take care of them, with their doctors’ help.