Just like humans, dogs and cats can become diabetic. This disease occurs in several species, but we will discuss the primary symptoms of just dogs and cats in this article. There are two types of diabetes: mellitus and insipidis. For the purpose of this discussion, diabetes implies diabetes mellitus.
How do I know if my pet is diabetic?
The first thing people notice is increased thirst and urination, often to the extreme. Weight loss is noted, as most pets that are prone to diabetes tend to be obese at the onset. Cats and some dogs develop a rough hair coat with increased dander. Mostly cats and some dogs develop a diabetic neuropathy. This is a neurological deficit often manifested by gait abnormalities. For example, a cat may walk on its heals rather on on its toes. Cataracts may occur in advanced cases. If the development of diabetes is prolonged before diagnosis, some pets present very ill with a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, which requires emergency care.
How is diabetes diagnosed?
Take your pet to your veterinarian. The diagnosis is made with some basic lab work and history. Classical abnormalities include high blood glucose and glucose in the urine. There are other diseases that can cause similar symptoms, so it is important to review all organ systems in the beginning.
Diseases causing similar symptoms:
- Cushings – a disease of too much endogenous cortisone
- Diabetis insipidus – an endocrine disease
- Pyometra – a severe uterine infection
- Pyelonephritis – kidney infection
What if my pet is diabetic?
Dogs and cats are managed differently and we will not go into detail here, but both species will require insulin injections at the beginning and perhaps for the rest of their life. They also need regular monitoring. Do not let the idea of giving your pet injections deter you from seeking treatment. Injections are actually quite simple and the pets tolerate it well, especially if they’re combined with positive reinforcement. Oral hypoglycemics used in humans are rarely effective in our pets. Your veterinarian will set up an initial consult with you to teach you how to give injections and how to monitor your pet. There may also be some diet changes involved, but each case is treated based on the pet’s individual needs. In the beginning, you’ll want to schedule regular rechecks visits to your veterinarian, approximately weekly to every other week. It is important that you try to keep these appointments because getting a pet regulated quickly is essential in avoiding permanent changes. Once the pet is regulated, visits will be much less frequent.
While we at Animal Medical Hospital are more than willing to instruct and work with you on “at home” glucose testing, we do so with some precautionary guidelines. You will be instructed on when not to give insulin based on glucose readings or pet response, and we strongly caution against increasing insulin doses or frequency without consulting with your veterinarian first. Diabetes is a complex disease process and there are numerous factors involved in deciding to change an insulin dose. Increasing doses without proper instruction could have dire consequences for your pet.
At-home monitoring can be a positive experience and beneficial for all involved. Let us guide you through this process.
Click here to watch a video of glucose testing at home.
Will my pet always be a diabetic?
Dogs, once diagnosed, tend to remain diabetic. A small portion of cats can revert to a pre-diabetic state and resume a normal life with proper diet management.
Will my pet’s life be shortened?
Ultimately, diabetes does take its toll on our pets, even with diligent treatment and control. Most will live another normal 2-6 years with treatment.
Click here to read about Diabetes Mellitus on the ACVIM website.
Please contact our veterinarians at Animal Medical Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida (FL) at 727-896-7127 for more information.