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How to Recognize Diabetes in Pets

Diabetes in pets is a condition that can threaten your pet's quality of life and longevity if left untreated. Today, our Laguna Woods vets discuss diabetes in pets so owners can know the signs and get the help they need.

Diabetes in Cats

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that cats can develop when blood sugar, or glucose, cannot be effectively utilized and regulated by the body.

Insulin is produced in the pancreas and controls the flow of glucose to the body's cells to provide energy. If your cat's insulin levels are too low, glucose is unable to reach the cells as it should. When this happens, the cat's body begins breaking down fat and protein cells to use for energy, while the unused glucose gradually builds up in the cat's bloodstream.

Type I & Type II Diabetes in Cats

  • Type I (Insulin-Dependent) - While rare in cats, Type I Diabetes occurs when the cat's body is unable to produce or release enough insulin into the body.
  • Type II (Non-Insulin Dependent) - Type II Diabetes is most common in overweight male cats over 8 years of age, and those cats which eat a high-carbohydrate diet. A cat with Type II diabetes produces enough insulin, but the tissues or organs do not respond appropriately to insulin and have become insulin-resistant.

Signs of Diabetes in Cats

A diabetic cat’s body breaks down protein and fat instead of using glucose, which means that even cats with a healthy or ravenous appetite, will often lose weight. Untreated diabetes in cats can lead to several health complications and symptoms, such as:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Walking flat on the backs of their hind legs
  • Unhealthy coat and skin

Diabetes in cats that are left untreated can lead to a variety of debilitating, expensive, and potentially fatal conditions. If your cat is showing symptoms of diabetes it is important to seek veterinary care. There is no cure for diabetes in cats, however, the condition can often be managed through treatment.

Treating Diabetes in Cats

An official diagnosis from your cat's vet is the first step in the process. Your vet will then prescribe daily management of the condition with insulin injections, (which your vet may train you to give at home). You may also need to make changes to your cat's diet to ensure that they’re getting the right combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. In more severe cases, your vet may recommend a special prescription food to help manage your cat's diabetes.

If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, regular visits to the vet for blood sugar tests will be essential, or if you prefer, ask your vet if testing your cat’s glucose at home is an option. You may also find it helpful to keep a diary of your cat's appetite and litter use so that any changes are spotted early and checked out.

Diabetes in Dogs

As with people, there are two types of diabetes in dogs. Neither of these conditions can be cured, however, both forms of this chronic illness can be managed effectively.

  • Insulin-Deficient Diabetes - This form of diabetes occurs when the dog’s body isn’t producing enough insulin due to a damaged or poorly functioning pancreas. Insulin-deficient diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in dogs.
  • Insulin-Resistant Diabetes - This form of diabetes occurs when the pancreas is producing some insulin, but the dog’s body isn’t utilizing the insulin properly. Insulin-resistant diabetes is common in older, obese dogs.

Causes of Canine Diabetes

The cause of diabetes in dogs is unknown however, several factors increase your dog's risk of developing diabetes. Dogs most at risk of developing diabetes include:

  • Dogs being treated for other conditions with steroid medications
  • Dogs suffering from Cushing's disease or other autoimmune disorders.
  • Unspayed females
  • Overweight dogs

Signs of Diabetes in Dogs

Make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible if your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms of diabetes. Early diagnosis is the key to successfully managing this disease in dogs. The early signs of diabetes in dogs include:

  • Frequent urination (polyuria)
  • Drinking more water than usual
  • Excessive appetite (polyphagia)
  • Unexplained weight loss

As the disease becomes more advanced symptoms may become more severe and include:

  • Visual impairment/blindness
  • Lack of energy
  • Joint stiffness/weakness
  • Dull coat
  • Vomiting

Treating Diabetes in Dogs

If your dog is diagnosed with diabetes your vet will prescribe medications and ongoing treatments that will allow you to manage your dog's condition. Ongoing treatment for diabetes in dogs typically involves:

  • Daily insulin shots
  • Regular daily exercise to help avoid spikes or sudden drops in glucose levels
  • A special, vet-recommended diet
  • Close monitoring of your dog for changes in symptoms and overall health
  • Regular veterinary examinations

Left untreated, diabetes in dogs can lead to serious and life-threatening side effects such as blindness, enlarged liver, urinary tract infections, seizures, kidney failure, and ketoacidosis.

Early diagnosis and treatment are important for successful treatment outcomes. Regular wellness checks at your vet's office once or twice a year can help your vet to spot the early signs of diabetes and begin treatment before the condition becomes more severe.

Is your cat or dog showing signs of diabetes? Contact our Laguna Woods vets to have your pet diagnosed and treated.

New Patients Welcome

Laguna Hills Animal Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our vets are friendly, experienced, and passionate about caring for the health of the cats and dogs in Laguna Woods. Contact us today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

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