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Your Pet and Diabetes

What is Diabetes? Diabetes is a lifelong health condition that impacts the body’s ability to convert food into energy, typically the body breaks down the glucose (sugar) and releases it into the bloodstream, when the blood sugar goes up, the pancreas releases insulin to let the sugar into cells which then turn it to energy. With Diabetes the body doesn’t create enough insulin, or it can’t use it the way it should. This causes glucose to remain in the bloodstream and once those glucose levels get too high, health issues will begin to occur and get worse without medical intervention.

Diabetes can impact more than just humans as well; in fact, it is found to affect about 1% of cats and dogs. If you’re worried your cat or dog has diabetes there are signs and symptoms you may start to notice, such as:

· Weight loss: Sometimes with Diabetic animals they will start to lose weight despite no change to their diet, they could still have a healthy appetite and still lose weight. This is because the body thinks it is starved of energy and will start to break down fats and proteins to ensure the cells deprived of glucose get what they need.

· Excessive thirst and urination: If you notice your pet drinking more water and urinating more often, then this can also be a sign of diabetes. This is caused because the glucose overwhelms the kidneys which can’t keep up with filtering it, in turn causing the glucose to get into the urine as well.

If you suspect your pet has diabetes, the best course of action is to talk with your vet. Your vet can usually diagnose diabetes with some blood work and will prescribe insulin to help your furry friend break down the glucose their body needs. In some cases, cats especially; their bodies respond so well to the treatment that they will go into remission.

Risk Factors

Like most health issues, there are things that can increase your pet’s likelihood of getting diabetes. The biggest risk factor is obesity, obesity will make your pet 4 times more likely to develop diabetes than their leaner counterparts. It is important make sure to keep your pet on a healthy and balanced diet and are fed regularly as instructed by the food or by your vet; who can also work with you on maintaining a healthy weight for your pet. It is also good to avoid feeding your pet anything that has a high fat content such as table scraps, bacon, buttery foods, and fried food. The pancreas is what filters the fats and if it gets overwhelmed your pet can get pancreatitis which is inflammation of the pancreas. This is very painful for your pet and will cause nausea, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and can even lead to death. Pancreatitis is a serious condition in otherwise healthy pets and is especially hard on pets who also have diabetes.

Other risk factors include inactivity, aging, being male, and the use of steroidal medications. Regular trips to the vet for those wellness check-ups are crucial, especially considering these risk factors. The better you know your pet, the more likely you are to notice when something isn’t right and the sooner you can diagnose the problem.

Caring for you Diabetic Pet

Once you get the diagnosis of Diabetes your vet will have you begin an Insulin regime for your pet. Treatment is often an injection done subcutaneously (into the skin) with a needle syringe or an Insulin pen. It is also likely that your vet will ask you to alter their diet to decrease the amount of glucose your pet takes into their body, generally a low carb diet is the best option for diabetic cats and dogs. You may also need to stop free feeding and start timed scheduled feeds instead, when you do this, it is often recommended to time the Insulin injection and the feeding around the same time, this is to prevent the glucose levels dropping too low.

Another aspect of caring for a diabetic pet is to keep a close eye on their glucose levels, especially at the beginning of treatment. The levels will likely fluctuate for a while and if they get too high or too low you will want to take your pet to the vet right away and they can help stabilize them with treatment. If their blood sugar levels aren’t regularly monitored, the glucose can get too high, or too low, or your pet can start to show signs of ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis happens when there isn’t enough insulin in the body, which can be caused by other illnesses as well. Signs of Ketoacidosis include nausea, vomiting, and increased thirst. If there is concern your pet may be experiencing this, it is best to take it to the vet as soon as possible.

Ketoacidosis can usually be prevented by regularly checking the glucose levels in your pet and keeping them in the target range recommended by your vet as well as making sure they’re getting their medicine regularly. It’s also important to keep in touch with your vet about how your pet responds to treatment so dose can be adjusted as needed.

Overall, a diabetes diagnosis isn’t a death sentence, most pets live long happy lives with diabetes with proper treatment and support. As I stated earlier there have also been cases where the animal will go into remission, but maintaining a consistent feeding schedule and a healthy diet low in carbs and fats is always good to keep up. It’s good to be familiar with your pet’s behaviors and habits, and if you’re ever not sure or have concerns then you can always get in touch with your vet, and they can help you.

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