November is National Pet Diabetes Month – this means that it’s time to increase awareness of this pretty common animal disease. 

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that affects the level of glucose, or sugar, in an animal’s blood.  Insulin is needed for the body to take the glucose from your pet’s food and put it into the cells of the body to be used up.  Diabetes occurs when your animal stops producing insulin, doesn’t utilize it correctly or makes too little insulin.  When this happens, a dog or cat may appear thin because they are constantly trying to make up for the sugar in their body being improperly utilized. 

Diabetes is quite common in older cats and dogs and usually happens when their body stops producing a sufficient level of insulin.  This causes your pet to not feel well – their clinical signs may include lethargy, weight loss, increased drinking, increased urination and a changed appetite.  Diabetes is quite common in cats that are overweight – this is a great reason to be sure that your cat is at a healthy weight. 

Diabetes in pets cannot be cured however it can be treated.  The basis of treatment is to do insulin injections for your pet at home and to get them on a proper food to control their disease.  Your veterinarian can show you how to do the injections and there are many different food options out there to choose from.  In addition, we typically monitor diabetes at home with a glucometer similar to that used in human medicine. 

It’s important to do everything you can to regulate your pet’s diabetes because if it remains untreated, there are significant side effects that can happen.  These include weakness in a cat’s hind legs due to nerve damage, cataracts that may lead to blindness and an increased risk of infections, specifically urinary tract infections.  Most importantly, your pet will feel better if you do everything you can to control their diabetes. 

Just like many diseases, diabetes, if caught early, can be treated or slowed down so it’s important that you visit the veterinarian once to twice yearly with your pets.  There are other diseases and conditions that pets can experience so a thorough exam is always important.  Visit your veterinarian and we can make sure you cat or dog is in tip-top shape!

Liz Foster, DVM