How do you know if your pet has diabetes?
Diabetes is a rising health problem among pets and other animals. Dogs, cats, horses, pigs, and even apes can get diabetes. To help you keep your animal companion in great health, here’s your go-to guide for pet diabetes prevention.
What is Diabetes?
Just like humans, pet animals (dogs and cats mainly) are susceptible to Diabetes Type I and Type II. In this blog guide, we’ll focus on Type II Diabetes and how you can prevent it.
Diabetes is a condition where the body doesn’t process glucose (sugar) properly, and glucose is the energy source of the cells in the body. Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, is used to transfer glucose throughout the bloodstreams to nourish the cells. However, if your pet has diabetes, the glucose isn’t being circulated normally. Instead, the glucose overflows into other areas of the body, causing problems such as frequent thirst and urination, kidney failure, and low energy levels. Pets that are elderly and overweight or obese tend to be more at risk for diabetes.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms to look out for in case your pet has diabetes:
- Increased urination and thirst – This is one of the most critical signs of diabetes, but it’s also a sign that indicates other health conditions; it doesn’t necessarily mean that, if your pet pees or drinks water more often, that they have diabetes. It’s best to go to your vet to determine if it’s diabetes or another health problem.
- Increased appetite – If your pet is eating more frequently, it’s possible that they may have diabetes. Since the body cells aren’t getting enough glucose and amino acids or your pet’s body isn’t processing the glucose and amino acids properly, your pet will most likely feel hungrier and increase their eating. In some cases, though, pets can experience decreased appetite.
- Abnormal weight loss – The reason for weight loss is because the energy and nutrients from the food aren’t being absorbed properly by the body. Although your pet may have an increased appetite and eat more, they can still lose weight.
- Lack of energy – When a diabetes-susceptible animal like a dog or cat gets diabetes, their bodies won’t be able to absorb the glucose and amino acids in foods, which results in reduced energy levels. If your pet is sleeping more often or doesn’t want to engage in normal activity (e.g., playing outside), it can be a sign of diabetes.
- Kidney failure – This is a common secondary symptom mostly found in cats. Kidney failure occurs when sugar in the bloodstream enters the kidneys, which will damage them greatly. Look out for an increase in drinking and urination.
- Rear limb weakness (Plantigrade stance) – This is a unique sign of diabetes that only occurs in cats. Cats usually walk on the pads of their paws, but the plantigrade stance causes cats to walk on their back ankles. Once diabetes is properly managed, this side effect will reverse itself.
- Blindness – This is one of the more severe symptoms of diabetes that happen more often in dogs, but blindness can also occur in cats due to diabetes cataracts.
Top Tips in Reducing the Risk of Pet Diabetes
If your pet isn’t at risk (yet) for diabetes, and you want to maintain their health for life, apply the following tips to your regular pet care routine to achieve optimal health for your furry friends:
1. Pay attention to the food you feed your pet.
Both the amount of food you provide and the type of food you feed your pet can be factors that increase or decrease the risk of diabetes. A diet that is too high in carbohydrates can cause insulin resistance, so it’s better to establish a diet with more protein and moderate amounts of carbohydrates for your pet. However, the amount of carbs your pet needs per day depends on their activity level and other factors, so it’s best to consult with your vet to create a well-balanced feeding plan for your animal companion. Choose a healthy, holistic pet food that is ideally balanced for a healthy pet, such as Ivory Coat, Meals for Mutts & Meows, Black Hawk and Taste of the Wild.
2. Watch your pet’s weight.
Excess weight is one of the major causes of diabetes in both humans and pets. If your pet is at the risk of being overweight or obese, but hasn’t developed diabetes, you can still get them to lose weight and reduce the risk of diabetes and other health issues. One way to help control the amount of food your pet eats is by using a slow feeder like the Northmate Green Interactive Slow Food Pet Bowl and the Outward Hound Flexible Slow Fun Feeder Mats. With a slow feeder, you can control your pet’s food portions and manage their weight easily. You can also find pet food that are specifically made to help with weight control; e.g., Hill's Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Chicken & Vegetables Wet Dog Food and Hill’s Prescription Diet Canine W/D Weight Management Dry Dog Food.
3. Look for signs of UTIs (Urinary tract infections)
Sugar can increase the risk of bacteria growth. When there’s an abnormal amount of sugar in urine, it’s common for diabetic pets to contract UTIs. Look out for problems with urination or the presence of blood in urine.
4. Be more active.
Find more ways to get your pet to be more active throughout the day to help prevent diabetes and obesity. For cat owners, you can try a cat scratcher like the SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post or give your feisty felines a fun playground such as the Deluxe Cat Scratch Centre or even slow them down with a challenge at mealtime with the Catit Senses 2.0 Food Tree (Find more cat toys here.) For dogs, whether indoors or outdoors, you can find many toys that you can use to add more exercise to your pet’s day, such as the Aussie Dog Home Alone Toy and the KONG Squeezz Crackle Stick or the interactive iFetch for your dog to play with even when you're not at home. (Discover more exciting dog toys here.)
And remember, there's nothing more important than a regular vet check to keep your mind at ease to make sure your pets are in tip-top shape!