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Diabetes in Pets

Diabetes in Pets

In recent years there has been an uptick in cases of diabetes in dogs and cats. Today our Madison vets share some of the common causes and symptoms of diabetes in your pets and how it can be managed.

Diabetes in Dogs

While diabetes in dogs cannot be cured, there are two main types of diabetes and both can be managed.

Insulin-Deficient Diabetes

'Sugar diabetes' or diabetes mellitus is insulin-deficiency diabetes which occurs when your dog's body isn’t producing enough insulin. This type of diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in dogs.

Insulin-Resistant Diabetes

Insulin-resistance diabetes results from the dog's pancreas producing some insulin, but not utilizing the insulin as it should. This is the type of diabetes that is most likely to be seen in older dogs or dogs with health conditions.

What Are The Causes Of Diabetes In Dogs?

While the main cause behind the development of diabetes in dogs is unclear, the dogs most at risk of developing diabetes include unspayed females, overweight dogs, animals being treated for other conditions with steroid medications, and those diagnosed with Cushing's disease or autoimmune disorders.

What Symptoms Of Diabetes Might My Dog Develop?

If your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms, make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. Your dog must receive a diagnosis quickly to have the best chance of having this condition managed successfully.

The early signs of diabetes in dogs include:

  • Frequent urination (polyuria)
  • Drinking more water than usual
  • Excessive appetite (polyphagia)
  • Unexplained weight loss

If the disease is allowed to progress then your dog may experience these more severe symptoms.

  • Visual impairment/blindness
  • Lack of energy
  • Joint stiffness/weakness
  • Dull coat
  • Vomiting

How Can Diabetes In Dogs Be Treated Or Managed?

Following a thorough examination and testing, if your dog is diagnosed with diabetes your vet will offer an ongoing treatment plan to help manage the condition and keep your dog healthy.

Ongoing treatment for diabetes in dogs typically involves:

  • Daily insulin shots
  • Regular daily exercise to help avoid spikes or sudden drops in glucose levels
  • A special, vet-recommended diet
  • Close monitoring of your dog for changes in symptoms and overall health
  • Regular veterinary examinations

If your dog's diabetes is left untreated it can lead to serious and life-threatening side effects such as blindness, enlarged liver, urinary tract infections, seizures, ketoacidosis, and kidney failure.

One of the best ways to monitor your dog's health is through regular wellness checks at your vet's office. Having your dog examined once or twice a year can help your vet to monitor your dog's overall health and spot the earliest signs of diabetes.

Diabetes In Cats

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that can develop in cats when blood sugar, or glucose, cannot be effectively utilized and regulated by the body.

Insulin is produced in the pancreas and controls the flow of glucose to the body's cells to provide energy. If your cat's insulin levels are too low, glucose is unable to reach the cells as it should. When this happens, the cat's body begins breaking down fat and protein cells to use for energy, while the unused glucose gradually builds up in the cat's bloodstream.

Type I and Type II Diabetes in Cats

  • Type I (Insulin-Dependent) - While rare in cats, Type I Diabetes occurs when the cat's body is unable to produce or release enough insulin into the body.
  • Type II (Non-Insulin Dependent) - Type II Diabetes is most common in overweight male cats over 8 years of age, and those cats which eat a high-carbohydrate diet. A cat with Type II diabetes produces enough insulin, but the tissues or organs do not respond appropriately to insulin and have become insulin-resistant.

Symptoms Of Diabetes In Cats

A diabetic cat’s body breaks down protein and fat instead of using glucose as a healthy cat's body does. This meant that even cats with a healthy or ravenous appetite will often lose weight. Untreated diabetes in cats can lead to several health complications and symptoms, such as:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Walking flat on the backs of their hind legs
  • Unhealthy coat and skin

Untreated, diabetes in cats can lead to a variety of debilitating, expensive, and potentially fatal conditions. If your cat is showing symptoms of diabetes it is important to seek veterinary care. There is no cure for diabetes in cats, however, the condition can often be managed through treatment.

Treatment Options For Diabetes In Cats

First, your cat needs to receive an official diagnosis from your veterinarian, who will then prescribe daily management of the condition with insulin injections, (which they may train you to give at home). You may also need to make changes to your cat's diet to ensure that they’re getting the right combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. In more severe cases, your vet may recommend a special prescription food to help manage your cat's diabetes.

If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, regular visits to the vet for blood sugar tests will be essential, or if you prefer, ask your vet if testing your cat’s glucose at home is an option. You may also find it helpful to keep a diary of your cat's appetite and litter use so that any changes are spotted early and checked out.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

If you notice that your pet is showing signs of diabetes you should schedule a consultation. Contact our Madison vets today.

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