Did you know that 1 in every 200 cats may be affected by diabetes?
November is National Diabetes Month and we want pet owners to be aware of the growing prevalence of diabetes in dogs and cats. Untreated, diabetes can be fatal to pets.
Your veterinarian will check for signs of diabetes at their annual wellness exam but, in between visits, look for these possible signs of diabetes:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Inappropriate urination
- Weight loss (most commonly over the back), despite an overweight body condition
- Increased hunger
- Increased “whiteness” of the lens of the eye due to cataracts
- Poor skin condition (like excessive dandruff or an oily hair coat)
So what exactly is diabetes?
With diabetes, the body doesn’t have enough insulin (or the insulin is not effective), which is the hormone necessary to push sugar (“glucose”) into the cells of the body. As a result, the cells of the body are starved, and the body is stimulated to produce more and more glucose as a result. However, without insulin in the body (or being delivered by syringe), the sugar can’t get into the cells.
The excess sugar that is produced by the body results in the clinical signs of excessive thirst and urination. Untreated, the body develops diabetic complications called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), where it breaks down fat in an attempt to feed the starving cells. These fat breakdown products (e.g., ketones) poison the body, resulting in vomiting, dehydration, inappetance, electrolyte abnormalities, and even too much “acid” production in the body. DKA can be life threatening, and typically requires intensive supportive care (which can be expensive to treat, as it typically requires 24/7 care).
If you notice any of these signs (e.g., excessive thirst, excessive urination), please bring your pet into your veterinarian as soon as possible. With diabetes, the sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
By: Jagpal S. Deo, DVM