Most of us know at least one person with diabetes. It’s an endocrine disease on the rise in humans, and fatal if left untreated. But did you realize it’s also prevalent among the animal kingdom?
For instance, your cat has a 1 in 200 chance of contracting it over the course of their lifetime.
In November, we recognize Pet Diabetes Month. As diabetes mellitus (DM) continues to plague our lives and our pets, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves.
Ahead we’ll look into some signs and treatment options that ultimately could save your pet’s life.
Two Types of Pet Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus can manifest as Type I DM – characterized by a lack of insulin – and Type II DM, which concerns an inability for the body to effectively process insulin. Both result in the cells of the body being starved for the sugar (or glucose) needed to regulate.
Type I DM is arguably more crucial for dogs. Once afflicted, they have the disease for life and will require twice daily insulin therapy.
Type II DM is far more prevalent in cats and can be transitory. Meaning, Fluffy may only require daily insulin injections for a few months until the body is able to reset.
Signs of Pet Diabetes
Knowing how the clinical signs of diabetes mellitus present themselves in cats and dogs is vital. When you know what to look for, you’ll be more likely to investigate a possible issue:
- Excessive thirst or increased hunger
- Excessive or inappropriate urination
- Weight loss over specific areas, like the back
- Progressive cataracts or blindness
- Weakness or lethargy
- Changes in skin condition (dry dandruff or oily coat)
Some combination of any or all of these is possible. However, if you notice your dog drinking excessively or having trouble holding their urine, these are perhaps the two most tell-tale signs. That’s because with increased and unregulated sugar free-floating in the body, pets become extremely thirsty.
Demographics and Risks of Pet Diabetes
Starting at about age seven, animals are at an increased risk for diabetes. While juvenile diabetes has been documented, older cats and dogs are more likely to struggle with it.
Gender matters, too. In dogs, disproportionately more females than males contract the disease, while in cats the inverse is true.
Certain breeds also appear to be overrepresented. For example, Siamese cats and small dogs like dachshunds, terriers and beagles all show higher instances of contracting the disease.
Aside from the blindness we mentioned earlier, diabetic complications like gangrene and comas can also be a consequence of the disease.
Without proper treatment, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is known to wreak havoc on the body. In its most extreme cases it causes vomiting, dehydration or electrolyte and acidic imbalances that can jeopardize your pet’s life or land him in the intensive care unit of your local veterinary hospital.
Treatments for Pet Diabetes
Insulin injections are used to regulate the disease, but once diagnosed they also require regular evaluations and continuous blood work monitoring.
While there is no cure for Type I DM, both types can be improved with diet. The higher quality the pet food, the better off they’ll be.
Look for all-natural pet foods that offer a low-carbohydrate, high-protein ratio. Some cats and dogs may also benefit from weight-loss food to facilitate diabetic remission.
Why Pet Food Choice is so Important for Diabetics
Your pet’s diet is directly related to their diabetic risk, and so much of that starts with the ingredients breakdown in their food.
Higher protein and fat diets with quality fiber have a lower carbohydrate level. This is important because carbohydrates (known as starches) are converted to sugar in the body, which can be detrimental to the health of your pet.
By feeding a higher protein and fat diet with lower carbs, you can feed less to achieve the same amount of calories. This also reduces the insulanemic response in the body after a meal. The trick is to seek quality fat sources in the diet, such as fish oils rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.
This high-healthy fat, low carb combo also helps pets maintain a healthy weight. As a general rule of thumb, fat has more than twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrates and it doesn’t increase blood sugar nearly as much as starches do.
Avoid diets containing extensive amounts of cereal grains such as corn, wheat, barley, and oatmeal along with white potatoes (russets) or white rice. Whole grain brown rice is acceptable along with ancient grains like sorghum and quinoa. These grains contain a quality fiber called “inulin” which studies show help manage blood sugar by slowing down the rate that carbohydrates are digested, as well as functioning as a prebiotic.
Ultimately, with diabetes, the sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated. Avoid diabetic complications and even diagnoses by remaining vigilant and aware this Pet Diabetes Month.