This article is meant to be used as information and should not be substituted for the advice and care of a licensed professional that knows your animal. If your pet is experiencing weight loss, increased urination or appetite, or any other change in their behavior that might be symptomatic of some health problem, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
The minute a pet comes into our home, they have a way of becoming family and taking an equally important place in our hearts. Because of this, it can be difficult to hear that your pet has some chronic condition like diabetes. But diabetes in cats and dogs is highly treatable, just like it is in humans, and there is no reason that your furry friend can’t live a long, happy life once you learn how to manage it.
Diabetes in Dogs
Dogs can suffer from two different forms of diabetes: diabetes mellitus (DM) or diabetes insipidus (DI). However, DI is extremely rare, so we’re going to mainly talk about DM for the sake of this article. If you want to know more about DI, we found this article by PetMD to be a good introduction.
DM is the more common type of diabetes in canines. It results from a failure of the pancreas to regulate insulin production (blood sugar). Just like in humans, insulin is important to the health of your dog because it tells the cells to absorb glucose from the blood. If there is not enough insulin present, the animal will become hyperglycemic, meaning that sugar accumulates in the blood instead of the body where it can be converted into energy.
If your dog isn’t getting the glucose it needs to convert, its system will instead begin breaking down fats and proteins causing weight loss, causing your dog to feel like it is starving, manifested as a ravenous and insatiable appetite.
On the flip side of those absorption issues, when your dog’s body senses the buildup of unused glucose, it tries to eliminate it through its urine, causing an increase in the amount of waste produced. In real life, this means that it will seem as if your dog is asking to go outside far more often than normal.
While there are several types of diabetes mellitus (DM), most dogs suffer from Type 1, which means they are insulin dependent. In those cases, your dog will require regular insulin injections to stabilize their blood sugar levels.
Managing Doggy Diabetes
Consistency and discipline are the keys to managing your dog’s diabetes.
Veterinarians will probably recommend a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in fiber since carbohydrates are high in natural sugars and fiber heavy foods to slow digestion and the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, giving the lower levels of insulin in your dog a chance to move the glucose from the blood into the body.
Diabetic dogs must be fed the same diet, in the same amounts, at the same times each and every day--normally twice a day just before their insulin injection.
That brings us to the biggie. If your dog is a Type 1 DM, they are going to require regular insulin shots. It is normal to feel squeamish at first, but there is no need to be. The injection needles don’t normally register any pain to the dog, cause no sting, and happen right under the skin, away from any organs. In other words, you aren’t going to mess it up and hurt your dog.
Diabetes in Cats
Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is also the most common form of diabetes in our feline companions and is the second most common endocrine disease overall.
However, Type II DM seems to be the most common form of diabetes in cats. In Type II, insulin-producing cells remain, but they aren’t as efficient or effective. The four symptoms, however, are the same: increased thirst, urination, weight loss, and appetite.
Managing Kitty Diabetes
Managing diabetes in a cat is similar to treating it in a dog, but on a slightly smaller scale because of their size.
Often, simply moving your cat to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet that lowers the amount of sugars and rate of digestion is enough to take care of any feline obesity and diabetic symptoms.
If a change in diet isn’t enough, your cat may need regular insulin injections, but once again, the needles are very small, and there is no pain to the cat.
Managing Expectations with Animal Diabetes
It is possible to manage your pet’s diabetes with minimal effort or change to your normal routines. However, it is important to note that it may take a few weeks to get the dosage right and that those doses will change over time.
However, diabetes does not need to be the end of your pet’s best years. They just need a little help from you to keep them healthy.