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Dealing with Diabetes in Your Cat or Dog

By Madeleine Burry. August 19, 2012 | See Comments

Dealing with Diabetes in Your Cat or Dog

The number of dogs and cats diagnosed with diabetes goes up each year. Learn more about this disease and how to manage it.

While there is no cure for diabetes, with proper management, the disease can be controlled without a major impact to a pet’s quality of life or life span. Sugar diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a fairly common disease for both cats and dogs -- as many as one in four hundred cats and dogs are diagnosed with diabetes, and the numbers are on the rise.

Symptoms

Diabetes eases in slowly, rather than occurring dramatically overnight. It may take a few weeks before you notice that something is awry with your pet’s health. The main symptoms to watch for in the early stages of diabetes are excessive urination, extreme thirst, weight loss despite an increased appetite, and general lethargy.

Untreated, symptoms will grow more extreme -- the disease can have an impact on all organs, and pets may experience dehydration, muscle weaknesses, vomiting, urinary tract infections, and eventually a coma and death. Dogs often develop problems with cataracts as well.

Causes & Basics of the Illness

Diabetes occurs when a pet has difficulty creating or managing insulin. Since insulin is important to the creation of glucose, which cats and dogs convert into energy, any disorder to the process has a tremendous impact on a pet’s health.

There are two main types of a diabetes. (A third type, which is generally the result of other diseases or certain medications, is much less common.) Dogs only get the first variant, Type I diabetes, which is known as insulin-dependent diabetes and occurs when pets do not properly produce insulin. Type II diabetes occurs when a cat does not process insulin correctly.

Some of the reasons pets may develop diabetes are obesity, genetics, certain predisposing disease, and a reaction to certain medications.

Treatment

Regardless of which form of diabetes your cat or dog has, treatment is possible with a combination of dietary changes and insulin injections. Diabetes is a chronic disease, and in general, treatment is ongoing and will not be a one-time event. For pets to flourish despite diabetes, you will have to provide them with a balanced and set diet. Administering subcutaneous insulin shots to maintain even insulin and glucose levels is usually required. As well as these changes, pet owners should track their pet’s glucose levels and look for any symptoms of the diabetes not being controlled.

You may feel really disheartened and overwhelmed if your cat or dog receives a diagnosis of diabetes. Although it’s a tough diagnosis, and will require adjustments to your daily routine, the treatment options are highly effective and likely to restore your pet’s quality of life.

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