As the obesity epidemic worsens, advertisements for medications and products aimed at treating and mitigating the symptoms of diabetes are becoming more prevalent. But humans aren’t the only species that can suffer from diabetes—our pets are at risk, too. November is National Pet Diabetes Month, and here’s what you need to know about the disease.

What is diabetes? 

Diabetes mellitus occurs when glucose—a sugar that is the main source of energy for the body’s cells—is not properly processed by the body. Typically, glucose in the blood is broken down by insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas. For some diabetics (commonly known as “Type I”), the pancreas does not make insulin. Other diabetics (known as “Type II”) experience impaired insulin production and inadequately respond to the insulin that is produced.

Diabetes in pets is sometimes classified as Type I or Type II, but the difference is less clear in veterinary medicine than it is in human medicine. Most dogs with diabetes suffer from Type I, insulin-dependent diabetes, and most affected cats are diagnosed with Type II.

What are the signs of diabetes in pets?

  • Increased water consumption and urination
  • Weight loss
  • Change in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Chronic urinary tract and/or skin infections
  • Lethargy
  • Cloudy eyes

How is diabetes diagnosed?

If your pet presents with signs consistent with diabetes, a simple blood test will confirm the diagnosis, although we may conduct additional blood tests to rule out other possible diseases.

How is diabetes treated?

If your pet is diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes, we will prescribe insulin, which can only be given through an injection under the skin. The injection is given through a small needle that is usually well tolerated by pets. We will teach you how to give this injection and how to monitor your pet’s daily blood sugar levels. If your pet’s appetite is decreased while on insulin therapy, he may become hypoglycemic, meaning his blood sugar is too low. You should also watch for signs of an insulin overdose, which can include tremors, seizures, loss of appetite, or weakness.

Type II diabetes may require insulin injections as well, although it can sometimes be controlled with proper diet and exercise.

All animals diagnosed with diabetes should also be fed a high-quality diet, but the specific type can vary depending on the individual pet’s needs. Pets with diabetes should also get plenty of daily exercise.

Is your pet showing signs of diabetes? Call our office for help.

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