As loving pet owners, we all want our pets to live long, healthy, and happy lives. And while certain illnesses and diseases are unfortunately beyond our control no matter what measures we take, many can be prevented.
November is National Pet Diabetes Month, and pet owners should be aware of how big of a growing problem diabetes in pets is becoming. Rates of diabetic pets in North America are increasing year over year, and this trend is causing quite a bit of concern among veterinarians and pet professionals alike.
Diabetes is a disease that cannot be cured, however with proper monitoring and treatment, many pets can fare very well and maintain a high quality of life.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that compromises the body’s ability to use glucose normally. Glucose is a type of sugar, and is the primary energy source for all cells in the body. The pancreas produces hormones that regulate the body’s glucose levels, most notably insulin.
After food is consumed and digested, sugars are absorbed by the body and are broken down into simple sugars (glucose), and circulated throughout the bloodstream. In order for glucose to transfer from the bloodstream to the cells, insulin is required. If there are insufficient levels of insulin, or the body’s ability to use insulin is compromised, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, leading to hyperglycemia. Once blood glucose levels surpass a certain point, it leaks into the urine; a condition called glucosuria. This condition uses a lot of water, explaining why diabetic pets typically consume more water, urinate more often, and have larger volumes.
In the case of a diabetic pet, there is not enough glucose available for cells to function normally, essentially starving them of energy. This results in a metabolic change where the body begins to break down fat and muscle, causing weight loss, eye problems, and more.
What are Symptoms of Diabetes in Pets?
Diabetes is a disease that can cause noticeable changes in your pet’s behaviour and overall health. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health, contact your veterinarian right away. Early detection of diabetes is crucial.
Symptoms of diabetes in pets include:
Disproportionate thirst, increased urination frequency and volume
Cloudiness in the eyes
Decreased or increased appetite
Lethargy and weakness
Diagnosing & Treating Diabetes in Pets
While a pet may display glaring symptoms of diabetes-related illness, your veterinarian will be able to provide an official diagnosis. Diagnosing diabetes involves testing for glucose and ketones in the urine, followed by tests to measure glucose levels in the blood. Diabetes is usually confirmed when glucose is detected in both the urine and in high concentrations in the blood.
While diabetes is a disease that cannot be completely cured, it can be managed through medication, exercise, and diet. Diabetes management is all about maintaining healthy glucose levels in the body.
Once a pet is diagnosed with diabetes, a veterinarian may prescribe insulin injections. Finding the proper insulin dose may require a little finesse and patience since it is not an exact science. Continual monitoring of glucose levels is essential for proper diabetes management. Glucose levels can be measured by performing a blood test or urine test. Testing the blood is the most accurate method of measuring glucose levels, and can be done at home with a glucometer and blood test strips.
Just as in humans, diet plays a powerful role in healthy long-term diabetes management for pets. The best approach is to focus on a healthy diet containing high fibre, low-carbohydrate, and low-glycemic ingredients. In order to avoid unwanted changes in blood glucose levels, it is wise to stick to a feeding schedule where your dog is fed at the same times every day.
Obesity in Pets
Did you know that more than half of all domesticated dogs and cats in North America are considered overweight or obese? It is estimated that one in every 300 dogs and one in 230 cats will develop diabetes in their lifetime. These are shocking statistics, and as the numbers of overweight pets continue to increase year over year, so will the rates of diabetes in pets.
Overweight pets are at significantly higher risk of developing diabetes compared to pets at their ideal body weight. Pets on a portion-controlled, well-balanced diet combined with plenty of exercise is the best method of diabetes prevention (among other illnesses). Such a simple change can have a major positive ripple effect on your pet’s overall health and well-being.
When it comes to diabetes in pets, it all starts with prevention. Prevention begins with awareness, and that’s what National Pet Diabetes Month is all about. To learn more, follow #PetDiabetesMonth on social media.
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.