This blog has all the information that will guide you if you have a pet that’s diabetic.
Diabetes is spreading at the same pace in dogs as it is in humans. As of today, 1 in every 300 dogs suffer from diabetes. While pets can suffer from it at any age, the age category of 4 -14 years is most susceptible to it. But due to lack of awareness and negligence, most cases are diagnosed between the age of 7-10 years, whereas in cats, the age group is above 6 years.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when there is an increase in the normal value of the glucose/sugar in the blood. Blood sugar/glucose is a prime energy source to perform daily activities. And it comes from the food we feed our pets. This blood glucose reaches the cells with the help of a hormone called insulin released by the pancreas. When there is an absence or lack of enough insulin in your pet’s body, the glucose stays in the bloodstream resulting in elevated blood glucose levels.
Types of diabetes
There are two types of diabetes :
- Type I - Diabetes mellitus (DM) : Insulin-dependent
- Type II - Diabetes insipidus (DI) : Non-insulin-dependent
Dogs are prone to Type I diabetes and rarely to type II, whereas cats are prone to both of them.
Overweight dogs are prone to diabetes
Sign and symptoms of diabetes
Understanding your dog's behavior is very important to detect early signs of diabetes. Signs and symptoms of diabetes are similar to other diseases. Hence keeping an eye on your pet’s health and regular checkups is necessary.
You can look out for symptoms like :
- Polydipsia - Excessive water intake to secrete out the sugar from the body through urination.
- Polyuria - Excessive urination. Pets may ask to go out to pee frequently due to an increase in the water intake. This is to get rid of sugar by eliminating it through urination.
- Polyphagia - Excessive hunger. Due to hyperglycemia (excessive sugar), the glucose from the blood/body can not enter into the cell because of insufficient or lack of insulin in the body. Hence, the conversion of food into energy is restrained resulting in the lack of energy and ultimately polyphagia.
- Weight loss - Though there is an increase in food intake, the body is not able to convert the food into healthy nutrients hence the weight loss.
- Cataract or cloudy eye condition in dogs
Many pets show signs of decreased appetite too. Clinical observations show hepatomegaly i.e. enlargement of the liver, lethargy and urinary tract infection. Seizures and diabetic neuropathy in cats are a possible occurrence too. The signs show slow progress over the period of weeks to months.
Factors responsible for diabetes
- Age - Pets can get affected with diabetes at any age, but senior dogs are more prone to the disease. After the age of 4 years, pets are more susceptible to disease. Therefore, a thorough health check-up once a year should be conducted.
- Gender - Unspayed females are more prone to diabetes mellitus than male dogs.
- Obesity - Obese pets are more prone to disease because obesity hinders insulin production affecting the pancreas, leading to diabetes.
- Pancreatitis - Health conditions like pancreatitis damage can cause diabetes too. If the pancreas are damaged, there will be no production of insulin.
- Drugs - Excessive use of medicines like glucocorticoids are more likely to cause diabetes in the long run. It is always advised to decrease dependency on drugs and opt for a healthier lifestyle.
- Genetics and breed - Genetics and breed play a major role in young diabetic pets. Some of the common breeds which are predisposed to diabetes are Dachshunds, Poodles, Pugs and Beagles. But generally, all breeds can get affected with diabetes. In cats, Burmese, Abyssinian, Russian Blue, Norwegian Forest cats are more predisposed to diabetes than the other breeds.
Diet plays an important role in controlling diabetes
Diagnosis of diabetes
The prognosis of diabetes can be done through early signs and symptoms. But for an accurate diagnosis, blood and urine tests are needed. These help to identify issues like hyperglycemia, glycosuria and urinary tract infection. Hyperglycemia and glycosuria are confirmed by testing the persistent fasting values. The normal value of fasting blood glucose in pets (dogs and cats) is 75-120 mg/dL. In cats, stress-induced hyperglycemia is common and hence multiple blood tests should be run for proper diagnosis.
Diabetes in pets is managed with long-term insulin therapy. But oral medication is not effective in the case of dogs. In cats, depending upon the severity your vet may treat the cat with oral medication rather than the insulin injection. Pet’s glucose values are examined every 1-2 hours for the next 24 hours to determine the quantity of insulin. Neutral Protamine Hagedorn (NPH) insulin, is a commonly used insulin in dogs for long-term treatment. Glargine and detemir are some synthetic insulin used in pets if NPH does not respond. Glargine is the insulin of choice in newly affected/diagnosed cats. Basal insulin treatment is also preferred in cats, whereas in dogs Lente is the insulin of choice. Insulin is administered into the skin. Your vet or paravet will guide you with the technical aspect of administration.
How to take care of your diabetic dog and cat?
Along with insulin, other factors play a major role in treating diabetes mellitus in dogs -
- Diet - Specialized diet plays a major role in controlling diabetes. With a proper diet schedule, the effectiveness of insulin is enhanced.
The diet should be rich in protein and fiber and low in carbohydrates.
Foods that should be avoided in a diabetic dog’s diet -
- High starches and grains that contain more than 50% carbohydrates should be avoided
- Foods which contain sugar like human glucose biscuits and cakes
- Treats with additives, chemicals, unnatural ingredients, artificial color, flavor, taste enhancer.
- Human-grade chocolates as it contains xylitol, ice-creams, sweets (like laddoos, barfis) and drinks (like coke, tea and coffee)
Along with insulin and a proper feeding schedule, diabetes can be controlled. The feeding schedule recommended by your pet dietician, nutritionist and veterinarian should be strictly followed. You need to ensure that your pet is only eating the recommended food. If your dog is on insulin with an irregular appetite, it can result in hypoglycemia i.e., low blood sugar level.
An imbalanced diet or fasting results in low absorption of sugar and with the insulin treatment the body is already eliminating the excess sugar causing hypoglycemia in dogs. Hence, a regular check-up for glucose levels is advised.
- Exercise - Most diabetic dogs are obese and kept on a weight reduction diet. Heavy exercise will help them to reduce weight faster. As the weight will reduce the body will need less insulin.
- Monitoring glucose levels - There is always a risk of low or high glucose levels in a pet's body. Both high and low glucose levels show similar signs of weakness, staggering, seizures, or them being more quiet than usual and losing their appetite.
- Regular check-up - To monitor the values and keep your pet in a healthy state, regular vet checkups are a must. This will avoid any unwanted complications.
So remember to follow these tips and take care of your furry buddy because diabetes is a silent killer and precaution is always better than cure! If you want our vets to visit you at your home or need a personalized diet plan for your pet, don’t forget to call us at +91 8431620000. Join our online community of pet parents Wiggles Tribe on Facebook and get all your questions answered by our in-house veterinarians and nutritionists.
*Disclaimer: This blog is vet-approved and includes original content which is compiled after thorough research and authenticity by our in-house team of vets and content experts. It is always advisable to consult a veterinarian before you try any products, pet food or any kind of treatment/medicines on your pets, as each pet is unique and will respond differently.