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Goldorado Animal Hospital

Taming the Sugar Beast: Understanding Diabetes in Pets

Boxer in Grass

Diabetes is a condition that most people have been touched by in one way or another. Be it themselves or a loved one, this disease affects a great many of the people in our lives. Did you know, though, that pets can be affected by diabetes as well?

Diabetes in pets is a serious but often very manageable disease that our patients at Goldorado Animal Hospital rely on us to diagnose and treat. Pet parents who understand this diagnosis can be better equipped to help their furry family members live their best life. 

The Details About Diabetes in Pets

Diabetes mellitus is the most common form of diabetes diagnosed in dogs and cats. With 1 in 500 of our patients being affected by it, it is not an uncommon diagnosis, either.

In diabetes mellitus, the body either fails to produce an adequate supply of insulin or the cells are unable to respond properly to an average amount of insulin production. Dogs most often are affected by the former, and cats the latter. 

Despite the reason for the lack of insulin activity, the result is the same: the body cannot absorb glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells. This causes a high blood glucose level, resulting in symptoms such as:

  • Increase in thirst

  • Increase in urination frequency and amount

  • Urinary accidents

  • Dramatic increase in appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Cataracts in dogs

If you feel that your pet is exhibiting one of more of these symptoms, we recommend that you contact us for an appointment right away. Diabetes in pets can share symptoms with many other diagnoses, so it is important that we evaluate and complete recommended diagnostic testing. 

The Pet Parent’s Role

So what is an animal lover to do if their pet is one of those affected by this disease? Thankfully, diabetes in pets is often quite manageable, but success does rely on full participation by the owner. 

Effective management of diabetes in pets means that the pet’s caregiver must be willing to:

Manage weight and diet – Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is important no matter whether there is diabetes or not. A healthy weight and quality diet is even more important for diabetic pets. In some situations a special or prescription diet may be recommended. 

Maintain a consistent schedule – Because diabetic pets rely on their owners for insulin and food, a predictable schedule can better our chances of taming this sometimes difficult disease. Diabetic pets should be fed and given their insulin around the same time each day, and things like treats and exercise should be kept as consistent as possible. 

Administer medications – Almost all pets with diabetes will need to have insulin injections, typically twice daily. We can coach you on the specifics of administering these injections, but the responsibility for purchasing, handling, and administering your pet’s insulin appropriately falls on your shoulders.

Pay attention to details – Unlike in people, diabetes in pets is rarely tightly controlled due to several limiting factors. This means that paying attention to your pet’s symptoms such as thirst, urination, appetite, and weight can be very important for us to understand insulin needs. We may also teach owners to monitor things like urine ketones or blood glucose readings at home. 

Follow up with care recommendations – A diabetic diagnosis means that you are going to be seeing a lot more of our veterinary team. From periodic serial blood glucose reading to urine screening for infection, a lot goes into managing the diabetic pet, and your patient relies on you to follow recommendations as outlined.

Communicate with us – We can’t help when we don’t know! Pet not cooperating for injections? Is there a sudden change in symptoms? Did your pet’s insulin double in price? We need to know so that we can help. We promise that we don’t mind your questions.

Diabetes in pets can be a bit of an overwhelming diagnosis for pet owners, especially when they begin to understand how much of a role that they have. The good news, though, is that your pet’s health is in your hands. It is not often you have so much control of a disease, and when you work together with us diabetes in pets is not such an unmanageable diagnosis after all.