Although we probably don’t think about it too often, our pets can get diabetes just like us. In fact, it’s very common in cats and dogs and is even on the rise in both species. However, just because your beloved furbaby has diabetes, they can still lead a happy and long life!
Diabetes Mellitus is a disease that occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Insulin allows glucose (a sugar) to be absorbed into the cells. When insulin production decreases, blood sugar rises. Insulin is required for the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. If there is not enough insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin, glucose accumulates in high levels in the blood.
A combination of high blood sugar and glucose in the urine is usually all that is required to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes. A urine culture may be needed to rule out a urinary tract infection
Some pets, especially cats, have high blood sugar from stress alone. If there is a question about whether your pet is truly diabetic, a fructosamine test may be recommended. This measures the average blood glucose level over the previous couple of weeks and can help differentiate between a one-time elevated glucose level due to stress and persistent elevations of true diabetes mellitus.
Symptoms of Diabetes
(despite good appetite)
Cataracts or Blindness
Weakness or Muscle Loss
(including skin and urinary)
Pets That Are Most at Risk
- Older (most often: 7-10 for dogs; older than 6 for cats)
- Females are twice as likely (dogs)
- Hyperthyroidism (cats)
- Hyperadrenocorticsm (dogs)
- Long-term steroid use
Photo credit: PetMeds® Pet Health Blog
The good news is that even though there is no “cure” for diabetes, it can be managed. Typically, your dog or cat will need to go on a specific diet and will often need to have regular (daily or sometimes 2x/day) doses of insulin. Cats often need to be hospitalized when starting insulin to ensure proper dosage through monitoring.
As insulin cannot be given orally, your vet or vet tech will teach you how to inject your furbaby under the skin.
Usually the injection is given by a very small needle that animals tolerate well. Your pet’s blood glucose levels will need to be monitored at home by you and based on those levels, the treatment regimen for your dog or cat may need to be adjusted periodically.
Early diagnosis greatly increases the success rate of treatment so if you suspect diabetes in your fur child, get to a vet immediately!