Directly following a carbohydrate-rich meal, the digestive system breaks food down into glucose, the main source of energy for the body’s cells. Glucose is absorbed in the gut making blood sugar levels rise. The pancreas responds to these changes by producing the important hormone insulin.  

Diabetes in pets occurs when the pancreas either doesn’t produce enough insulin (Type 1) or the body’s cells don’t respond properly to the amount of insulin secreted (Type 2). The effects of untreated diabetes can be extremely dangerous to long term health. 

Your Pet’s Blood Sugar

Most cats and dogs suffer from Type 2 Diabetes, or Diabetes mellitus (also known as sugar diabetes, referring to the lack of blood sugar regulation). In this disease, glucose is prevented from entering the cells. It builds up in the bloodstream and then dilutes urine. This process makes cats or dogs feel the urgent need to urinate more frequently, but it also makes them more thirsty.

Other Items at Play

When the body cannot respond appropriately to insulin, glucose levels are thrown off balance. Since appetite is controlled by glucose levels in the brain, pets with diabetes will behave as if they aren’t satisfied by their meal and ask for more food than normal. Because diabetes causes a loss of muscle mass they will appear underweight, prompting owners to potentially overfeed their pet. 

Too much glucose in a pet’s bloodstream over an extended period of time can cause dangerous symptoms and long term health consequences.

Classic Symptoms of Pet Diabetes

It is essential that pet owners watch their pet’s behavior closely. The following symptoms of diabetes in pets should never be overlooked:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Blood and urine testing can reveal a diabetes diagnosis. Depending on a pet’s age, weight and lifestyle, treatment may consist of medication, insulin injections, dietary changes and exercise. 

The Future of Diabetes in Pets

Diabetes is a chronic disease but dedication to their changing needs can help pets live long, happy lives. Since Type 2 diabetes is usually the result of lifestyle, overweight or obese pets are at a higher risk of developing it and other health conditions. 

The pancreas doesn’t produce an adequate amount of insulin to control blood glucose, but exercise and an appropriate diet can go a long way toward supporting pets with Type 2 diabetes. Meals that are high in fiber and protein (and low in sugar) will take longer to digest. If they need insulin injections at first, they may require less as they lose weight. 

Achieving Success Against Diabetes

We work closely with pet owners to achieve a balance regarding their pet’s diet, exercise requirements, water consumption, glucose testing, and insulin injections if needed. It can be scary and overwhelming at first, but after you both become comfortable with the new normal, your routine will be easier.

Please let us know if you have any questions about diabetes in pets, or if you need help adjusting your pet’s dietary needs. Our team is  always here for you at Bowman Veterinary Hospital.