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With so much focus on human types of diabetes and the risks it poses, it’s easy to forget that your loveable dog, cat and a whole range of other pets can suffer from diabetes.
Diabetes can be just as nasty for animals as it can for humans, and looking for the signs early can make a huge difference with keeping them healthy and well. Nowadays, most vets can perform simple tests to confirm a diagnosis and teach you to help your pet manage the problem easily.
What is diabetes?
Animal diabetes is very similar to human diabetes and occurs when the animal’s body is no longer capable of producing insulin (from the pancreas), or when what insulin they are producing is no longer effective at breaking down sugar in the blood.
This means that sugar isn’t processed by the animal’s body like it should, causing high blood pressure spikes, often after meals. This leads to lots of urination as the balances of solids and liquids in your cat’s body becomes a bit wonky.
Symptoms of cats and dogs with diabetes
Early symptoms to watch for are an increase in urination (peeing all the time), if the animal is always thirsty (becoming dehydrated from all the urination), always hungry (but not really gaining weight), and weight loss itself as the body struggles to handle the sugar.
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, its certainly time for a trip to the vets. Not only can any of these symptoms be an indication of a number of different problems, but they are also just the first signs of diabetes, and early detection and treatment is essential for your pet to still live a long and healthy life.
Failing to take your pet to the vets at this point can sadly be fatal. Latter symptoms can include blindness, as well as circulation problems that can require limbs to be amputated, and seizures, fits and even death.
Is my pet at risk from diabetes?
All animals are at risk to some degree, but there are other factors that can increase risk:
The first set of increased risk factors are genetic ones, such as certain breeds of cat or dog being more susceptible to diabetes than others, such as beagles or Burmese cats. Check yours with your vet to find out if you should be on special lookout.
Checking into the family background of your pet is a good idea too if they have a close family member who has suffered from diabetes, this ups their chances of developing it too.
The second factor is lifestyle. Overweight animals are far more likely to develop diabetes as the insulin struggles to deal with the sugar contained in their diet. Keeping your pet lean and trim is easily the biggest and best way to combat pet diabetes, and so if your pet is putting on a few pounds, its likely to be time to up their exercise regime, or calorie control their diet.
The final one is an inevitable one: old age. Pets over 6 years old begin to develop a slower metabolism, and this can affect the production of insulin too. Once your pet starts to get over the 6-year mark, be on closer lookout for signs of diabetes.
This is the easy bit a trip to the vets and a simple dipstick placed in the animal’s urine can give instant results as to whether there is a diabetes related problem at work. Blood tests are also sometimes available, but a dip test for the presence of sugar is usually all that is needed.
The best treatment is obviously prevention. As we mentioned, keep your pet on a low sugar, low-calorie diet and ensure they get a suitable amount of exercise for their age and breed. If they are diabetic anyway, consider a change of diet discussed with your vet to ensure that it is, even more, calorie controlled, and ensure that your pet doesn’t get their jaws around anything too sweet.
As a last resort, most vets can provide your pet with insulin injections on a regular basis to make up for the lack of insulin produced by your pet, keeping their blood sugar in check.