Helping My Pet Avoid Diabetes: What You Can Do

Dog at vet check-up.

Diabetes is a disease that affects many animals. Both cats and dogs can develop it, and it can be a very serious problem for both. At Ten West Bird and Animal Hospital, it is our goal to keep our pet patients as healthy as possible. While sometimes diabetes in animals happens despite prevention measures, being a proactive pet owner can go a long way to avoiding it in many cases.

A Little About Diabetes in Pets

Many of us have a frame of reference about what diabetes is from our encounters with it in the world of human health. 

Diabetes mellitus occurs when the body cannot utilize glucose normally. Glucose, a type of sugar, is the body’s main source of energy.

As food enters the digestive tract, glucose is absorbed from it into the cells that line the intestines. From there, they are absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered throughout the body. As the glucose reaches other cells a hormone called insulin helps it to move from the blood into them. Insulin is made by the pancreas.

If there is not enough insulin being produced, or if the body’s cells need a higher amount of insulin than normal, the glucose is unable to be absorbed and accumulates in the bloodstream. High glucose levels in the blood is called hyperglycemia. At a certain level, the glucose begins to spill over into the urine, pulling large amounts of water along with it.

The end result of this is that the body’s cells are starved of energy, forcing the use of fat and muscle stores for energy. This results in symptoms including:

  • Weight loss 
  • Ravenous appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination

Untreated, diabetes can result in a condition called ketoacidosis. Pets in diabetic ketoacidosis are often very sick and can succumb to the disease if not treated. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any concern that your pet might be diabetic. 

Helping My Pet Avoid Diabetes

While it is likely that the reason some pets develop diabetes and others do not has something to do with a genetic predisposition, you are not totally hopeless against this disease process. 

Diabetes prevention in pets looks very similar to diabetes prevention for humans. Actions that you can take to protect your four-legged friend include:

  • Working with us to develop a dietary plan that helps your pet maintain a healthy body weight
  • Encouraging daily activity (you too cat lovers!)
  • Keeping snacks and extras to a minimum
  • Keeping your pet away from fatty, rich foods to prevent pancreatitis
  • Feeding a low fat diet to pets with a history of pancreatitis
  • Avoiding long term therapy with steroids when possible
  • Manage predisposing conditions like Cushing’s Syndrome appropriately
  • Spay females pets as recommended to decrease hormonal influence related to the development of diabetes

If your pet does develop diabetes, it is important to treat it as soon as possible. Allowing us to do routine screening labs at your pet’s wellness check ups and alerting us to signs of trouble as soon as they are noted are helpful in making this happen.

While having diabetes is not ideal, most cases are very manageable once diagnosed. Don’t worry, if your pet still ends up having diabetes despite your prevention efforts, we are here to help you every step of the way.