Most pet owners are surprised when I tell then their overweight dog or cat is at increased for diabetes, just like a human. It never occurred to them that pets get this blood sugar disease too, but it affects 1 in 100 to 1 in 500 pets. That is why I am talking about Diabetes during Pet Diabetes Month.
Just like humans, the disease is a relative lack of insulin in the body, which is needed for the cells to take in glucose, which leads to high levels of glucose in the blood. We can see both Type 1 (insulin dependent), and Type 2 (non- insulin dependent) in pets, but most of the time by the time I diagnosis it, insulin in the only treatment. And most pets need the twice a day “shots”.
The most common symptoms that I see in practice are increased thirst and urine output, increased appetite with weight loss, or lethargy. Often the owner just thinks their cat or dog has a urinary tract infection or incontinence because they are having urine accidents in the house. Occasionally, I notice that a middle age dog has cataracts developing.
Diabetes has to be treated with insulin injections, usually twice a day, for dogs and cats. This is not fun, but most pets tolerate the tiny needles better than the owners. The other big downsides are the cost, and being tied into a set schedule which makes it challenging for boarding or pet sitters. Rarely, I have a cat that can be managed on pills, or diet alone.
Long term complications include urinary tract infections, diabetic crises of glucose too high or too low, cataracts, suppressed immune function, and slow healing. We seldom see the neuropathy and amputations that affect humans.
The best prevention for pet diabetes is maintaining a normal weight, avoiding obesity, staying active, and avoiding pancreatitis (often secondary to high fatty food). Some researchers are concerned that high carbohydrate diets could be a contributing factor, but a low carb diet is certainly part of the management while on insulin.
(This is a mostly a repeat that I wrote last November, but you might have missed it then. Diabetes hasn’t changed much in a year. )