To promote awareness, November is National Pet Diabetes Month. It is valuable to learn the signs and symptoms of diabetes in your pet to help ensure proper management and provide your pet with a longer and healthier life.
Diabetes mellitus occurs when the body either does not produce enough insulin from the pancreas (Type I), or when the pancreas produces some insulin, but the amount produced is either too low or is unable to be used by the body (Type II). Insulin is necessary to move glucose (sugar) into the cells of the body. With too little or ineffective insulin production, the cells of the body are starved of glucose. The body produces more glucose as a result, which cannot get into the body’s cells without insulin. Excess glucose in the body produces symptoms of increased thirst and urination. Without treatment, complications arise, such as diabetic ketoacidosis, when the body’s fat is broken down in an attempt to feed the glucose-starved cells. This breakdown of fat creates ketones, which poison the body and cause yet more symptoms, including poor appetite, dehydration, and vomiting. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious, potentially life-threatening veterinary emergency requiring hospitalization to properly treat.
Dogs most frequently develop Type I Diabetes, whereas cats usually develop Type II. Type I requires daily, life-long insulin therapy, but with Type II, it is possible for a pet to receive daily insulin therapy for a matter of months, along with proper diet, and then go into remission.
Signs of diabetes in pets may include:
- Increased thirst and increased urination
- Weight loss in spite of a generally overweight body
- Increased appetite
- Cloudy eyes (most frequently seen in dogs)
- Chronic or recurrent infections, especially of the skin or urinary tract
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your pet, especially increased thirst and urination, contact us. With proper monitoring (including frequent checks of blood sugar and urine), insulin treatment, diet, and exercise, your pet can still live a happy life with diabetes.