While November is known by many as American Diabetes Month®, bringing awareness to the risk factors and management of diabetes in humans, it’s also Pet Diabetes Month. One in every 230 cats and one in every 300 dogs are affected by diabetes, making awareness of the signs and symptoms of this illness in dogs and cats critical for every pet owner to know.

Types of Diabetes in Pets

Diabetes (known clinically as diabetes mellitus ) is the inability of the body to control blood glucose levels, and there are two types in pets – Type 1 DM and Type II DM. Type 1 is when your pet’s body doesn’t produce insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, and requires lifelong insulin injections with a syringe. We see this type of diabetes most commonly in dogs. Type II is when your pet’s pancreas produces insulin, but the body has become resistant to it, or something within their body is interfering with its ability to use it properly. This type of diabetes is most commonly seen in cats and often requires insulin injections for a few months, along with a low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss. Regardless of the type of diabetes, the lack of insulin prevents the conversion of food into energy, leaving your pet lethargic and leading to health issues. The AVMA offers an in-depth look at diabetes and what happens inside the body of a diabetic pet.

Causes of Diabetes in Pets

While some breeds are predisposed to diabetes, including Cocker Spaniels, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Dachshunds, Beagles, Siamese cats, Burmese cats, and Maine Coon cats, obesity is the leading cause of the disease. Certain medical conditions can also make pets prone to developing diabetes, such as Cushing’s disease and pancreatitis, and age also plays a factor. Middle-aged and senior cats and dogs are more likely to develop the condition. Merck Animal Health, affiliated with the official Pet Diabetes Month website, offers a simple quiz to see if your dog or cat is at risk of diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Pets

As a pet owner, many clinical signs of diabetes warrant a trip to your veterinarian for testing.

Be on the lookout for any combination of the following symptoms of pet diabetes:

  • Excessive thirst and increased urination
  • Accidents around the house
  • Weight loss despite increased hunger
  • Increased cloudiness of the eye lens due to cataracts
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Skin conditions, such as dandruff or an oily hair coat
  • Recurring infections

Caring for a Diabetic Pet

If your dog or cat has been diagnosed with diabetes, your need to pay particular attention to diet and lifestyle to ensure it doesn’t progress and lead to additional medical issues.

If your pet is diabetic, you should do the following:

  • Maintain a good relationship with your veterinarian
  • Feed them low-fat, high protein, low carbohydrate meals and treats
  • Avoid over-feeding
  • Give your pet plenty of exercise through additional walks and/or increased playtime
  • Do not feed them table scraps
  • Know the signs of low blood sugar so you can take appropriate action

While diabetes can be a scary diagnosis, your pet can still live a long, comfortable, and normal life with the illness. By being hypervigilant about their diet, exercise, and insulin needs, their quality of life can be no different than that of a non-diabetic pet. If you would like to learn more about pet diabetes or suspect your cat or dog may have it, contact us right away—we’re here to help.