Type II diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, has become a deadly epidemic in the United States, affecting tens of millions of humans. Unfortunately, our pets aren’t immune to the disease either. Studies show that diabetes now affects 1 in 50 dogs and cats, and it shows no sign of slowing down.
Because diabetes in pets is so common (and so dangerous), owner education and diligence are vital in order to prevent and combat this disease.
Diabetes Mellitus 101
In a healthy animal, the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin, which is responsible for converting sugar into usable energy for the cells. A properly working pancreas keeps blood sugar levels stable, which is critically important to the body’s overall function.
Diabetes in pets results when a pet’s body can no longer utilize insulin properly (leading to insulin resistance) or when the pancreas stops producing insulin. When insulin can’t be used or produced, blood sugar levels can become dangerously elevated, leading to a host of serious health problems if left untreated.
Recognizing the Signs of Diabetes in Pets
The symptoms of diabetes are often subtle, which is why it’s important to be alert to what’s normal for your pet’s health and note any changes in behavior or appearance. Early diagnosis is critical to the successful treatment of your pet.
What are the signs of diabetes in pets? Call us right away if your pet is experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Excessive thirst
- Increased appetite (early in the disease)
- Decreased appetite (as the disease progresses)
- Weight loss
- More frequent urination
- Overall weakness
- Cloudy eyes
- A sweet or pungent smell to the breath
Understanding the Risks
Although the exact causes of diabetes in pets remain unknown, we do know that obesity is a major risk factor. Keep your pet at a healthy weight by providing them with a high-quality, nutritious diet, proper portion control, and make sure they get plenty of age-appropriate exercise each day.
A New Way of Life
There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be successfully managed through dietary changes, weight control, exercise, and medication. It may take several months to regulate a pet’s glucose levels, and some will need to remain on medication throughout their life.