Recognize Signs of Diabetes in Pets

It is important to recognize the signs of diabetes in pets before the disease progresses.  Without proper treatment pets with diabetes become very sick.  November is National Pet Diabetes Month so it’s appropriate to help pet parents understand this disease better.


What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus  is a condition that occurs when the body cannot use glucose (blood sugar) normally.  Glucose is a main source of energy for the body’s cells.   The levels of glucose in the blood are primarily controlled by the hormone  insulin, which is made by the pancreas.

As food passes through the digestive tract, sugars and nutrients are absorbed from the food into the bloodstream.  Insulin is required for the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream to the body’s cells.  If there is not enough insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin, glucose accumulates in high levels in the blood,  but is not properly delivered to cells.  The body’s cells become starved for energy and as a result will break down body fat and muscle for energy.  When the blood glucose reaches a certain level, the glucose overflows into the urine and draws large volumes of water with it. This is why diabetic pets often drink more water and urinate more frequently and in larger amounts.


What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

Recognizing the signs of diabetes early is important because the earlier treatment is started the better the prognosis is for your pet.  If you see these symptoms it is important to have your pet examined by a veterinarian.

-Increased water intake

-Increased urination

-Weight loss

-Change in appetite (up or down)

-Blindness or sudden cloudy eyes

-Lethargy or weakness

-Poor skin or coat condition

Diabetes can occur at any age in dogs or cats however older pets are diagnosed more frequently.  Overweight and obese pets are significantly more at risk for diabetes.


How is Diabetes Diagnosed and Treated in Pets?

Pets experiencing any of the above symptoms should be examined by a veterinarian.  Blood testing and urine testing showing elevated glucose in the blood and urine will diagnose diabetes.  Routine blood and urine testing as part of your pet’s annual wellness checkup can detect early diabetes before the symptoms are seen.

Treatment of Diabetes is a lifelong management and involves giving pets injectable insulin.  Giving your pet injections is often intimidating for owners however the needles are very small and most pet parents feel comfortable once the technique is demonstrated by a veterinarian or veterinary technician.  Pets who are diagnosed with diabetes but are otherwise stable are usually started on twice daily insulin injections after they eat meals.  Pets who have become dehydrated and sick may need to be hospitalized initially for more intensive care treatment.  Diabetic pets are also more prone to urinary tract infections or other infections so additional testing is often recommended. A prescription low sugar diet also helps in the management of diabetes.   Pets undergoing insulin treatment need to have their blood glucose levels monitored very closely.  Veterinarians will check glucose levels closely to determine the best dose of insulin for each pet.  Low blood sugar is a serious potential complication of insulin overdosing. Symptoms of low blood sugar include weakness, tremors, seizures, loss of appetite, and vomiting.  Pets need to be seen immediately by a veterinarian if any of these symptoms are seen.  It is important for pets to be regulated and checked  frequently by a veterinarian to assure proper treatment.  Pets with diabetes are more prone to other diseases such as cataracts.  Diabetic pets can still live a long healthy life with proper management and care.

Although obesity is not the only factor leading to diabetes, maintaining your pet’s proper weight can help prevent diabetes.  There is significant rise in pet  obesity in the United States.

Please call us if you would like to consult with us regarding proper weight and diet for your pet.  If you suspect diabetes with your pet please call us for an examination.

Thank you,

Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital