Whether you just got a pet or have had one for a while now, as loving pet owners, even the thought of our beloved pets having diabetes can be unnerving. However, knowing what diabetes is, the signs and symptoms to look for in pets, and getting early treatment can really help our pets continue to live amazing and healthy lives.
Overview of Diabetes in Pets
Diabetes is a long-lasting condition that impacts both humans and pets. It occurs when the body is unable to effectively convert the food that is consumed into energy. Normally when food passes through the digestive system, sugars are one of the main nutrients that the body absorbs from the food. Once these sugars are absorbed, they are broken down and converted into glucose, a type of simple sugar that the body can use. The glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the different tissues and cells throughout the body. Once the sugars enter the bloodstream, the pancreas is alerted and releases insulin, which allows blood sugar to enter the cells and can then be used for energy.
In a diabetic patient, however, once the glucose enters the bloodstream, it stays there. In pets suffering from diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use the insulin efficiently. The cells are unable to use the glucose in the bloodstream as energy, resulting in consistently high blood sugar levels. With not enough energy to function properly, the cells begin to use healthy muscle, tissues, and fat for energy and can cause significant weight loss in diabetic patients. The excess blood sugar is often urinated out of the patient, resulting in frequent trips to the bathroom for diabetic patients.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Pets
While diabetes can occur to cats and dogs of any age and breed, there are certain factors that may increase the likelihood of a pet developing diabetes:
- Physical inactivity
- Neutering or spaying
- Breeds that are predisposed to diabetes (example: Burmese cats, terriers, poodles, etc.)
While diabetes may not develop immediately, it’s important to keep an eye out for the following signs and symptoms in your pet:
- Increased urination: Due to the excess blood sugar that is circulating in the bloodstream, the body must dispose of it through frequent urination.
- Weight loss: Because the cells in the body can’t use glucose as energy, the body begins to use healthy tissue, muscles, and fat for energy which can result in excessive weight loss.
- Excessive thirst: Look out for signs of your pet drinking more than usual.
- Inactivity and fatigue: When the pets aren’t able to process food into energy effectively, they become inactive and have little energy throughout the day
- Depression: Over time, depression can set into dogs as they aren’t able to run and explore the way they used to.
Although there is not a permanent cure for pet diabetes, the great news is that there are sustainable treatment options for your pet. These include:
- Diet changes: Your vet will be able to guide you on how many calories and how frequently your pet will need to eat. Constructing a high-quality diet for your pet is a critical step in managing the effects of diabetes. For example, most vets recommend a high-fiber, low-fat diet, which can slow the process of glucose entering the bloodstream and will help your pet feel full. You also want to make sure your pet drinks plenty of water throughout the day.
- Daily exercise: Making sure your pet gets daily exercise is an important factor in ensuring your pet stays happy and healthy. Although diabetic pets may not have the energy to exercise as long as they used to, a consistent and moderate daily exercise routine is still a must.
- Insulin injections: Diabetic pets will need insulin injections under their skin for the rest of their lives and can become a daily and quick routine.
The thought of your pet suffering from diabetes can be challenging to deal with initially, but keeping an eye out for the signs and symptoms of pet diabetes and getting a comprehensive vet exam from an affordable pet clinic can significantly decrease any damage to your pet’s body and help manage diabetes from its early stages. Also, getting your pet acclimated to a wellness plan will allow for consistent check-ups throughout the year so any early signs of diabetes can be treated quickly. With some tweaks to your pet’s diet, having a daily exercise routine, and incorporating quick insulin injections each day to your pet, your pet can definitely continue to have a happy and healthy life!