The answer is – YES. Dogs and cats can develop diabetes. Luckily, treatment is available.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the body either does not produce enough insulin (Type I) or is unable to effectively use the insulin it does produce (Type II). In either case, serious health disturbances result.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, necessary for processing blood sugar (glucose). Without insulin, blood sugar passes into the urine, rather than being used by body tissues.
When body tissues are starved for sugar, they begin to break down and no longer function normally, resulting in:
- skin sores and infections
- urinary and respiratory infections
- vomiting and dehydration
- coma and death
Type I diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) and is often seen in older, overweight female dogs and in cats.
Type II diabetes, also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) is often seen in cats, but is rare in dogs.
What signs should I look for in my pet?
- excessive thirst and urination
- weight loss
- poor appetite
- weakness, inactivity
- dandruff and unkempt appearance (scruffy coat)
- muscle wasting
- plantigrade stance in cats (see photo)
What causes diabetes?
- genetic predisposition
- viral infection
- pancreatitis and other diseases
- hormone-type drugs
Is there a cure?
No, diabetes is not curable, but it can be controlled.
What kind of treatment is available?
Insulin injections and a specialized diet are indicated for Type I diabetes. You will learn how to give your pet its insulin injections at home. You may also need to monitor its blood sugar and urine sugar levels.
Type II diabetic patients may require a specialized diet and feeding schedule, along with blood sugar monitoring.
Nearly all diabetic patients require some amount of exercise, and female patients should be spayed to prevent hormone fluctuations from disturbing blood sugar levels.
As for diet, low carbohydrate, low fat, high fiber, high protein diets work best. Your pet’s veterinarian or vet specialist will recommend a suitable diet to manage glucose levels and weight. Hill’s Pet Nutrition has formulated m/d, r/d, and w/d to address various issues concerning diabetic dogs and cats.
Will pet insurance help me manage the cost of treatment?
Yes.* In fact Veterinary Pet Insurance reported in 2010 that its fifth most common health claim for cats was diabetes. In 2011, diabetes dropped to number six on the list, but still represented a large number of claims.
*Important: if your pet is diagnosed with diabetes before you sign up for pet insurance, it is considered a pre-existing condition and may not be covered. Pet health insurance is best started when your pet is young and healthy.
Note: The information above is a partial explanation of diabetes, its symptoms, and treatment. There are other types of diabetes that are not mentioned here.
This article is not a substitute for medical care. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition. If you believe your pet has an illness, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian today.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition publication
Instructions for Veterinary Clients
Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary
Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice
The 5 Minute Veterinary Consult