Diabetes Awareness: 5 facts on diabetes mellitus
November is Diabetes Awareness Month in human health and in veterinary health! Diabetes is a common disease for both humans and animals; however, many cases of diabetes in animals are preventable. Diabetes mellitus occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin or is unable to use the insulin it does produce. This condition is very serious and will cause death if not treated. The good news is diabetes mellitus is fairly easily diagnosed with proper veterinary care and owner awareness. Here are some facts on diabetes and what to watch for in our furry family members:
1. Watch the weight!
Animals who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk for developing diabetes (just like humans). Keeping your cat and/or dog at an ideal weight will help to prevent many diseases – diabetes included. Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your pet’s body condition and to calculate his/her exact food and exercise needs per day. This will make sure everyone is on the right track towards keeping your pet happy, comfortable, and healthy.
2. Did you know cats have a chance for diabetic remission?
If diabetes is caught early enough and the cat is started on the proper insulin, following with a management plan through your veterinarian, there is a chance your cat will go into remission! Cats are amazing animals, and I love when I am able to tell a pet parent they no longer need to continue insulin injections for their cat.
3. Know the signs
Signs of diabetes include: increased/excessive drinking, increased urination (possibly having accidents in the house), increased hunger, and possible recent weight loss. These can also be signs of other chronic illnesses. It is important to have bloodwork performed on your animal if you feel he/she is experiencing any abnormal behavior.
4. What is my diabetic animal’s life expectancy?
Cats can initially be a little difficult to manage, but once they are on the correct dose of insulin and their diet has been changed, if they do not develop complications, they should have a normal life expectancy. Dogs do not typically have the chance for remission like cats do, and will need to be on insulin injections the rest of their life. However, if they do not develop any problems and are properly managed with the schedule you and your veterinarian agree upon, they should also live a normal life expectancy.
5. No oral hypoglycemic medications!
In human health, some diabetic patients are managed with medications taken by mouth. This works to stabilize blood sugar quite well, but not for animals! Research is continuous, and veterinarians know it would make everyone’s lives easier if we could give a pill instead of an injection, but right now those drugs have not worked in our animal patients.
The good news about diabetes in our pets is if it is caught early, the likelihood of success with treatment is much higher. Every year with annual bloodwork on dogs and cats the blood sugar is evaluated. Be sure to ask your veterinarian when your pet’s last screening was so you can catch any disease as early as possible!
– Leigh Hofmeister, DVM