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Posted on 11-14-2016

Diabetes in Our Pets

Dr. Rory Hekking

When a pet is diagnosed with diabetes, oftentimes one of the first comments I hear is “I didn’t even know cats (or dogs) could get diabetes.” Unfortunately both can, and do fairly often. Then questions turn to “How did this happen?” or “What do I do now?” In most cases diabetes is a manageable disease so your pet still has a great quality of life.

Before getting to treatment, let’s take a step back and talk about how diabetes happens. The process is slightly different in dogs and cats, but we’ll stick with general principles. If you have questions, please call us and we would be more than happy to chat about it.

In all dogs and cats, the body needs sugar to function. A key part of the body using that sugar is a protein produced in the pancreas called insulin. Insulin helps the body use sugar, so without it the sugar in the bloodstream isn’t used. That means the body thinks it is sugar deficient (because it can’t use what’s available) so it makes more sugar, compounding the problem.

Signs of diabetes often include weight loss (but with a good appetite), accidents in the house, development of cataracts and not feeling well. The good news is that routine blood work is typically able to catch diabetes. If you’re suspicious this may be going on in your pet, we can test for with a simple blood sample.

As always, prevention is the best medicine. Pets that are overweight or tend to get fatty meals are more likely to get diabetes. That’s just one of the reasons it is so important to keep your pet on an appropriate and balanced diet. Treatment for diabetes includes insulin injections, diet changes and purposeful weight loss. Your veterinarian can go over the specific points of each aspect, but the best results are achieved when all three categories are addressed.

Since some differences exist between dog and cat diabetes, the long term outlook is slightly different. The good news is that cats can actually go into remission from their diabetes! Early detection and careful management can result in some cats not needing insulin injections, as their body starts to regulate itself again. Dogs generally do not have this same goal with treatment. Instead we manage quality of life and keep blood sugar levels in check.

If you are concerned about your pet having diabetes or have questions about anything in this post, please let us know. We look forward to chatting with you!

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