Pet Diabetes Month
November, also known as Pet Diabetes Month, aims to educate pet parents about the effects of diabetes, as well as how to keep a pet on a healthy path when diagnosed with the disease. Diabetes mellitus, the medical term for diabetes, is a disease caused by the lack of insulin in a pet’s body, or when the pet’s body is unable to use the insulin correctly. This lack of insulin results in altered glucose and sugar levels in the pet’s body. When a pet digests a meal, particles are broken down by the pet’s digestive system, using these particles as energy.
Diabetes can happen at any age with both dogs and cats. The average though, is for a dog to be between 4-14 years old, but diagnosed between 7-10. Most diabetic cats are older than 6 years of age. Diabetes is also more common in female dogs than males, and there are certain breeds that are more susceptible to diabetes. Obesity is a significant factors in a dog or cats risk of developing the disease. As they grow older, they may develop other diseases that can result in diabetes or affect how they react to their treatment of the disease. For dogs, this includes over activity of the adrenal gland in dogs, and in cats, over activity of the thyroid gland. Other ailments for both animals include pancreatitis, heart disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infections and skin infections. Long term use of medications is another risk factor, particularly with ones that have corticosteroids in them.
Pet parents know their pets well, so seeing any symptoms that their pet is not themselves is cause for concern. Symptoms of diabetic pets include excessive thirst, urination, and hunger. Additional signs include lethargy, thinning or dull hair, cloudy eyes in dogs and no regular grooming in cats. If a pet parent sees any of these warning signs, taking the pet to a vet is the best way to understand its symptoms. First, a vet will perform a general health exam, asking questions to learn more about why a pet is acting differently. After a pet parent describes the symptoms, the vet may want a sample of the pet’s urine to be tested for glucose or ketones. Ketones are acids that are produced by the pet’s body as it breaks down fat instead of glucose for energy. When glucose is found, the next step for the vet is to test the pet’s blood to note the blood glucose level. A diabetes diagnosis is considered definite when persistently high glucose levels are found in both the blood and urine.
With the assistance of a trusted vet, diabetes can be successfully managed and maintained. Daily insulin injections are usually required to keep a pet’s insulin and glucose levels in check, and after a few times pet parents are naturals. A healthy diet of a high quality consistent source of protein is recommend for both dogs and cats. For cats, providing them with a high protein, low carbohydrate diet ensures that they can make it through an active day without extra carbs turning into sugar. Meanwhile, while dogs love their daily walks, it is important to know that physical activity affects glucose levels, so dog owners should keep their pet’s to a regular exercise routine to minimize uneven levels.
It may take a little bit for a pet and its family to get to use to the changes that a diabetes diagnose entails, but in no time the pet will be back to itself, and there is no better outcome than a happy, healthy pet.