An Owner’s Guide to Pet Diabetes
Pet diabetes is one of those problems that owners never want to encounter but need to know exist. November is Pet Diabetes Awareness Month, and we hope you take a moment to learn what every owner should know about this disease.
What is Pet Diabetes?
Most of us have some knowledge of diabetes as a human disease, but a surprisingly large number of people aren’t aware that pets can develop diabetes as well.
Normally, the body relies on insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) to help direct sugar (glucose) into the cells where it can be utilized. In pets who are diabetic, this process doesn’t work like it should. This is typically due to one of the following reasons:
Decreased insulin production – In this scenario, the pancreas simply does not pump out enough insulin to process all the glucose coming in.
Insulin resistance – When a pet is insulin resistant, the body requires much higher amounts of insulin to handle the glucose. At some point, the pancreas is unable to keep up because the demand is so high.
In either case, the end result is the same. The body is unable to process glucose, and it builds up in the blood stream. As a result, we observe the following symptoms commonly associated with diabetes:
- Decreased energy
- Weight loss
- Ravenous appetite
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
Pets who have diabetes may also experience other side effects such as urinary tract infections, cataracts (dogs), or trouble walking (cats).
What Causes Pet Diabetes?
Genetics probably play a large role in the development of diabetes. Despite our best efforts, some animals will develop the disease, but there are things you can do to decrease the odds:
- Feed your pet a high quality diet and maintain a healthy body weight
- Encourage regular exercise and activity
- Schedule regular wellness care for your pet
- Discuss any concerns so we can intervene early
What Happens if my Pet Develops Diabetes?
While we hope this never happens, don’t despair if your pet develops diabetes. With some extra care, most pets can lead long, happy lives with their owners.
If you suspect your pet may have diabetes, it’s important to contact us to receive an accurate diagnosis. Many other diseases can have similar symptoms, so diagnostic tools such as blood and urine tests are critical.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, we may refer you to our department of internal medicine to discuss your pet’s condition with an expert in this area. Dr. Cheryl Wood is a board-certified specialist who has extensive experience working with patients with endocrine problems such as diabetes.
Managing Pet Diabetes
Diabetes often requires insulin injections for successful management. While the thought of giving your pet daily shots can be a little intimidating, nearly all owners can learn to administer them at home with very little trouble.
Besides injections, a diabetic pet must also be monitored closely at home and in the hospital, especially as we work to find the appropriate insulin dose. Dietary management and a routine exercise program are also cornerstones of a successful treatment plan.
Managing pet diabetes takes a little effort, but the results are worth it. When correctly managed, patients with diabetes live fairly normal lives. Early detection is also important, so if you think your pet may be at risk, please schedule an appointment with us or your regular veterinarian. At Heart of Texas Veterinary Specialty Center, we want to start your pet on the right path immediately.