Labs are one of several breeds prone to diabetes. But the right nutrition and exercise will keep dog diabetes at bay, and your pet can live a long, healthy life. Tomlinson’s Dog, Iceman, stays diabetes-free with his daily workout at the park near Quarry Lakes.
As we don Fall sweaters and set the table for Thanksgiving, let us to steal five minutes of your time to recognize a lesser known but also important occasion: it’s National Pet Diabetes Month.
Though diabetes can be a complex disease, it is easily managed with the proper knowledge and tools. But, how much do you know about canine and feline diabetes? Get a quick primer below on how to spot the signs and if your pet is at risk.
What is diabetes?
According to Merck Animal Health, “diabetes mellitus, the clinical name for ‘sugar diabetes,’ is a condition that affects the concentration of glucose… in your dog [or cat’s] blood.”
One type of canine diabetes is inherited and is usually found in dogs less than a year old.
The more common type of diabetes is the result of one of two things: a shortage of insulin or an issue with the body properly using the insulin it has made.
Is diabetes in pets the same as diabetes in humans?
Canine and feline diabetes are very similar to diabetes that humans experience. In fact, diabetic pets require similar equipment, monitoring systems and medication intended for humans with diabetes.
The main difference in canine or feline diabetes and human diabetes is this: pet diabetes requires insulin treatment and is not properly managed through oral medications.
What causes diabetes in pets?
While all pets are susceptible to diabetes, certain factors increase the risk, such as age, weight, activity level and genetics.
Further, the following dog breeds have a higher risk of developing diabetes:
- Cocker Spaniels
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Toy Poodles
What are the symptoms of diabetes in pets?
If your pet is experiencing the following symptoms, your veterinarian may perform blood and urine tests to determine if diabetes is the cause:
- Cloudy eyes in dogs- cataracts are sometimes caused by diabetes
- Lack of grooming in cats
- Thinning, dry, dull hair
- Excessive thirst/ drastic increase in water consumption (Polydispia)
- Increased appetite (Polyphagia)
- Large amounts or frequent urination (Polyuria)
My pet has just been diagnosed with diabetes… now what?
While animal diabetes cannot be cured, it can be managed. With proper nutrition, lifestyle changes, and regular maintenance, diabetic pets can live a happy, healthy life with the same life span of diabetes-free pets.
Upon diagnosis, the vet will instruct pet parents on how to test blood sugar levels. This process is similar to the test for humans, and does not hurt your fur baby. Initial tests will determine how much insulin is required for maintenance, which is usually based on weight. Further testing will be required on a regular basis to ensure that treatment is successful.
The veterinarian will also demonstrate how to properly administer daily insulin shots to help stabilize insulin levels.
How can I prevent my pet from getting diabetes?
As with many diseases, diabetes is not entirely preventable. However, there are a few steps you can take that will help keep the disease at bay.
Obesity is often directly related to a diabetes diagnosis. Three aspects of maintaining a healthy weight are diet, exercise and consistency. Get more insight on pet obesity here.
A high-quality, consistent source of protein is an essential part of any diabetic diet. High-protein, low-carb diets are frequently recommended for diabetic pets, as they are a great source of energy without all the extra carbs that can turn into excess sugar.
More information on choosing a pet food can be found here.
And while we all love to spoil our furry friends, a healthy diet also means limited access to people food and treats.
All pets need exercise. This is especially important for dogs with diabetes. Whether it be short walks or a game of fetch, exercise will strengthen the bond with your pet.
You can read more on pet exercise here.
Although diet and exercise are key with diabetic pets, consistency is critical. Because of their abnormal blood sugar levels, pets with diabetes should be fed, exercised and medicated at the same time each day.
Furthermore, discuss any irregularities with your veterinarian. You know your pet better than anyone, so you’ll know if something isn’t quite right. Be sure to bring it up at her next check-up.
Are you a parent of a diabetic pet? What key advice can you give on keeping her healthy and happy?
Share below in the comments, or over on our Facebook page! This is valuable knowledge for your fellow pet parents.