By Dr. Ashley Ayoob
Just like humans, cats and dogs can suffer from diabetes. Currently, one in every 100 – 500 pets develops this condition. And professionals within the veterinary industry expect this number to rise in coming years.
So, as a pet owner, what do you need to know?
1. Prior to a diagnosis, your four-legged friend won’t act like himself.
If your pet experiences lethargy, increased thirst, frequent urination, an insatiable appetite or rapid weight loss, he may suffer from diabetes. All individuals – whether human or animal – experience similar symptoms when they have an insulin deficiency (diabetes).
2. Your veterinarian can determine whether your pet has diabetes.
Your veterinarian is a critical partner in your pet’s diabetes diagnosis, care, and management. Testing for diabetes includes a complete blood count (CBC), a chemistry panel, and a urinalysis to start. Your veterinarian may also recommend further diagnostics, including radiographs, an ultrasound, urine culture, and blood pressure checks. These additional tests help properly evaluate your pet and rule out concurrent diseases.
3. Plenty of treatment options exist.
The primary treatment for dogs and cats with diabetes is insulin therapy. Although there is no “perfect” insulin, veterinarians may choose from several different types, including Vetsulin, Humulin/
Novolin, Lantus/glargine, and PZI. There is also no standard dosage. Each animal reacts differently to insulin types and doses. However, through a well-managed trial, your veterinarian will select the right treatment plan tailored for your pet.
An equally important treatment component is nutrition. For cats, diets play an essential role in diabetes management. Diabetic cats typically respond well to a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. Dogs can benefit from a diabetic diet as well; their diets are typically high in fiber and low in fat.
4. Regular exercise and a healthy diet help ward off diabetes.
Obesity ties closely to diabetes. In canines, certain breeds are more susceptible to developing this affliction – including Cocker Spaniels, Pomeranians, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Terriers and toy Poodles. Other factors include genetics and whether your companion is spayed or neutered. Diabetic animals are generally older and commonly have multiple medical concerns. To help prevent this illness, keep your furry friend at a healthy weight through regular exercise. Also, feed him or her a balanced diet.
5. With good management, pets with diabetes live an active, fulfilling life.
The most important thing to know about a diabetic pet is that he or she can lead a great life. Most cats and dogs become accustomed to their daily insulin injections and even allow owners to check their blood glucose levels at home. The initial diagnosis, along with the inevitable trial and error to obtain the most effective dose of insulin, can be frustrating; however, once achieved, these pets typically remain asymptomatic. Many diabetic patients develop cataracts, but a veterinary ophthalmologist can effectively manage this affliction. Overall, life expectancy for a diabetic animal is the same as a non-diabetic animal as long as you closely monitor and properly treat the condition. Well-managed diabetic pets have excellent quality of life.
In conclusion, don’t be frightened or anxious if your veterinarian tells you your pet is diabetic. There are lots of great resources available to help support you – including the staff at Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida. Diabetes is highly manageable, and your pet can live a happy, healthy life!
Dr. Ashley Ayoob is a founding member and owner at Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida. She is one of only a handful of diplomates worldwide to receive dual-certification in both small-animal Internal Medicine and Emergency and Critical Care. She is ASH’s current Medical Director, and her professional interests include infectious disease, shock, and disorders of coagulation with internationally published scientific articles.
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