November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and even if it was originally meant to increase awareness for this common endocrine disorder in the context of humans, it is extremely important to be aware of the growing prevalence of the disease among dogs and cats. Unfortunately this is a condition that cannot be cured, but with proper management and treatment, pets suffering from it can live long and happy lives.
Diabetes Mellitus: what is it?
Diabetes mellitus, also known as Diabetes, is a condition that occurs when the body can’t properly use a type of sugar called glucose. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body’s cells and its concentration is primarily controlled by a hormone called insulin, whose main function is to keep blood sugar regulated. Blood sugar consistently running too high or too low can cause damage within the body.
The disease in pets resembles the one that occurs in humans. In veterinary medicine there are two types of Diabetes (type I and type II), depending if the syndrome is due to loss or dysfunction of insulin production or due to diminished ability from the body to use the hormone.
Is your pet at risk of developing Diabetes?
Even though the disease can occur at any age in both dogs and cats, older animals are more prone to develop it. Diabetic dogs are usually between 7 and 10 years of age and most diabetic cats are over the age of 6. In addition, female dogs and male cats are more likely to develop the condition.
Certain breeds may be predisposed to Diabetes as well. In dogs, breeds such as the Samoyed, Miniature Pinscher, Schnauzer, German Shepherd, Beagle or the Poodle are over-represented, while in cats, the Siamese breed takes the podium.
Besides genetics, your pet’s lifestyle can also put them at stake! Obesity and lack of exercise are significant risk factors for developing the disease. Furthermore, long term treatments with medication containing corticosteroids and some diseases that dogs and cats may develop along their life, like pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism or kidney disease, may also increase the risk of Diabetes.
Be careful with the following signs!
Noticing the early signs of Diabetes is the most important step in taking care of your pet’s well-being, so keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Increased water consumption
- Increased urination
- Lethargy (decreased activity)
- Weight loss despite an increase in appetite
- Poor skin condition (thin, dull and dry coat)
- Cloudy eyes due to cataracts (especially in dogs)
Being diligent in paying attention to our best friends’ habits and day-to-day activities can be crucial. If you notice any of the signs listed above or have any doubts or concerns, feel free to contact our Findster Care team or your local veterinarian!
My pet has Diabetes: what now?
Although there is not a cure for Diabetes, the disease can be successfully managed. Still it normally requires lifelong treatment and, invariably, great commitment!
Insulin therapy is the mainstay of treatment for clinical Diabetes Mellitus. Twice a day insulin injections are usually demanded to restore the body’s insulin level and control blood glucose concentration. It is also important to regularly monitor the blood glucose level.
A specific diet plays a vital role during the disease managing process. In addition, timing and size of meals are also crucial to achieve success! Adding some balanced exercise to the equation can be helpful as well.
Regular veterinary checkups are mandatory for monitoring potential changes in your pet’s condition. Keep in mind that careful monitoring is the key for a favorable outcome!
With supportive care, the prognosis for Diabetes Mellitus varies from fair to good! However, it will definitely require a huge effort, dedication and a strong compromise between you, your pet and your pet’s veterinarian. You really have to focus on the main goal: to increase your best friend’s lifespan, with the highest quality of life possible!