Skip to content
Diabetic Pets - How can we care better for them

Diabetic Pets - How can we care better for them

Did you know that cats and dogs can develop diabetes mellitus? According to studies, about 1 in 300 dogs and about 1 in 230 cats are affected. It’s thought that diabetes is the second most common endocrine disorder in cats!

In this article, we will explain what diabetes is in pets, the risk factors for diabetes, signs of diabetes and how we can care better for pets in diabetes.

What is diabetes mellitus?

First of all - when talking about diabetes, this article will refer to “diabetes mellitus” and not “diabetes insipidus” (diabetes insipidus is the subject of another article!)

Before we explain what’s abnormal, let’s explain what’s normal. Human and animal bodies are made up of cells. Glucose is a type of sugar, and cells use glucose as an energy source. In human and animal bodies, a hormone called insulin is responsible for glucose regulation in the body. Depending on the body’s needs at the time, insulin helps to bring glucose from the bloodstream into cells, or signals the liver to store glucose. Glucose reserves in the liver can then be released whenever the body needs it. Diabetes mellitus occurs when the body‘s cells cannot make use of glucose, leading to abnormally high blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are abnormally high, the excess glucose spills over into the urine.

Type I and Type II diabetes in cats and dogs

Type I diabetes in pets occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin. Type II diabetes when the body does not respond properly, even if there’s enough insulin present. Dogs are more likely to develop Type I diabetes. Type II diabetes is very rare in dogs. On the other hand, cats are more likely to develop Type II diabetes.

Risk Factors for diabetes in cats and dogs

1) Weight

Overweight and obese pets are more likely to develop diabetes. Obesity impairs glucose breakdown, and also increases cells’ resistance to insulin. Some studies indicate that the risk of diabetes increases by 3-5 times in obese pets.

2) Age

Middle-aged and older pets are more likely to develop diabetes than younger pets

3) Severe/chronic pancreatitis

Insulin is produced in the pancreas. When pancreatitis is severe enough, pancreatic cells are destroyed - leading to reduced insulin production.

Signs of diabetes in cats and dogs

The signs of diabetes in cats and dogs include (but are not limited to):

-Excessive drinking/urination
-Weight loss (despite an increased appetite)

Additional signs may include:

-Frequent urinary tract infections

And so on.

What happens if diabetes is left untreated?

You may wonder what happens if diabetes is left untreated. A life-threatening condition (Diabetic Ketoacidosis) will result. In this condition, the body breaks down fat cells for energy as it is unable to use glucose. These ketone bodies cause a life-threatening change in the blood’s acidity. Serious,life-threatening dehydration also occurs.

Signs of diabetic ketoacidosis include the signs of diabetes mellitus. Additional signs include (but are not limited to):

-Muscle wasting
-Profuse vomiting
-Fruity breath
-Heavy panting

Diabetic Ketoacidosis is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Consult a vet asap if you notice any of these signs in your pet.

Do note that the signs of diabetes in pets are vague, and overlap with signs of other health conditions. Therefore, it is risky to diagnose your pet on your own as treatments for other conditions are very different. Consult a vet, who will do the necessary diagnostics.

Diagnosis of Diabetes

Vets will diagnose diabetes after history taking, physical examinations and diagnostics. With regards to diagnostics, your vet will first check for elevated blood and urine glucose. If the results are suspicious, the vet will carry out a serum fructosamine test (serum is a component of blood). Your vet will then determine whether your pet has diabetes.

Management of Diabetes

Unfortunately, diabetes cannot be treated. It can only be managed. Fortunately, with proper management, diabetic pets can lead happy and fulfilling lives.

1) Medication

Insulin injections are a crucial component of therapy. They are given at fixed times, once or twice a day under the skin by owners. Ask your vet if Caninsulin (prescription-only medication) is suitable for your pet.

Don’t panic if you’re unfamiliar with giving injections - your friendly vet clinic will teach you. The timing of injections and type of insulin injected may be altered by your veterinarian during follow-ups, depending on how well your pet responds to the initial regime. Do note that some pets may initially do well on one type of insulin, but eventually develop resistance. The best way to find out is to attend follow-ups and discuss your pet’s status with your vet.

If cat owners absolutely refuse injections, oral glipizide (a prescription-only medication) is another option for treating diabetes. Do note that oral glipizide is not an option for dogs.

2) Diet

A proper diet is incredibly important for proper management of diabetes. Diabetic pets should avoid foods with excess carbohydrates, as excess carbohydrates are broken down to simple sugars like glucose, causing a blood glucose spike. The correct prescription diets are important for diabetic pets. For dogs, ask your vet about the PETCUBES Veterinary Support Range - Ketogenic Diet.For cats, ask about the Hill's® Prescription Diet® m/d® GlucoSupport Feline Dry Cat Food.

The timing of meals is also crucial to managing diabetes. Meal times and insulin injection times need to be planned around each other. Meals have to be given at fixed times each day - your vet will determine the timings. Furthermore, do not give your pet any snacks in between unless your vet says it’s ok to do so. Snacks outside of a diabetic’s are downright dangerous, as they can throw glucose levels out of whack.

The Importance of Monitoring Diabetic Pets

As mentioned several times during this article, close monitoring is crucial for your diabetic pets’ survival. Stick to diet and medication regimes that your vet prescribes, and attend follow-ups with your vets. During follow-ups, blood glucose curves (i.e. several measurements of blood glucose levels over a day) will be done to monitor your pet’s response to a regime. Regime modifications may be made if necessary.

We hope that this article has shed light on diabetes in pets. Consult your vet if you have additional questions about diabetes in pets!
Previous article Dealing with Anxiety in Dogs
Next article Osteoarthritis in Pets : What You Need to Know

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields

Liquid error (layout/theme line 287): Could not find asset snippets/expo.liquid