Diabetes Mellitus is a common disease in both dogs and cats. It is a condition where the pancreas does not secrete insulin to control blood sugar. The most common signs you may notice at home are increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, and weight loss. Although other diseases can cause similar signs, blood work and a urine sample are usually sufficient to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes in most pets.

Pets, like humans, eat proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The cells of the body are 100% dependent upon insulin to uptake and utilize this nutrition in the form of glucose or blood sugar. Without insulin, a body will “starve” despite how much is eaten.

There are three basic things to address when managing a pet with diabetes:

  1. DIET – Your pet will need to eat a healthy, balanced diet every day, avoiding excessive snacks and especially avoiding people food. A regular diet will help you regulate your pet’s blood sugar much more reliably. 
  2. INSULIN – In most cases, you will need to give your pet an insulin injection twice daily. This is easy as the needles are super small, and most pets do not even realize they are getting the shot.
  3. CLOSE OBSERVATION OF YOUR PET AND CLOSE COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR VETERINARIAN – Diabetic pets are more prone to certain infections such as urinary tract and skin infections. They do not tolerate stomach issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite as would a normal pet. Insulin adjustment and more prompt treatment are necessary.

Things that you need to watch out for in your diabetic pet can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Signs that the blood sugar is too low, or hypoglycemia are most serious and include wobbliness, disorientation, vomiting and even seizures. The solution – do NOT give insulin! Feed your pet if it is able to chew and swallow and call your vet immediately. Do not panic. This is not a sign that you have to give up. Insulin adjustment is necessary.
  2. Signs that the blood sugar is too high or hyperglycemia, include increased thirst and urination, excessive hunger, and weight loss. The solution – you should call your vet and arrange for them to help you adjust the insulin. Again, do not become discouraged. Insulin adjustments will help.

Let us talk prevention:

Diabetes is almost exclusively associated with obesity and improper feeding in pets. The good thing about this is that YOU are in complete control of what and how much your pet eats. Your veterinarian can guide you in healthy weight management so, even if your pet is currently overweight, you can correct this. 

News Flash!

There is a new oral medicine for the treatment of diabetes in some cats. Not all cats will be candidates. Your veterinarian can help you decide.

Finally, although the diagnosis of diabetes can be daunting, your pet can lead a full, happy, and healthy life. They can sleep in your bed, hang out with you on the couch, go to the park, swim, play, and, in general, act and treated as any other pet. Although prevention is the only “cure,” your veterinary team will be there to guide you if treatment is needed.

Note: The advice provided in this article is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your veterinarian.

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