Diabetes Mellitus, commonly known as diabetes is a condition where the body is incapable of properly using/processing glucose1. This is either due to an inadequate amount of insulin (diabetes I) in the body or the body’s inability to properly utilize the insulin (diabetes II) available.
Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is responsible for transporting glucose to the cells in the body. This is an extremely important function because the cells need glucose for energy. They will begin to break down the body’s natural fats and muscles if they do not receive energy from an external source. Glucose is derived from the breakdown of food in the intestines.
It has been noted that diabetes is more likely to develop in an older pet (ages 4-14 for dogs and cats older 6 years) than a younger pet1. Pets that develop diabetes at a young age have been found to have a genetic predisposition to diabetes and usually have multiple relatives/ancestors also live with diabetes.
Obesity is the most common diagnosis in the western world when access the health of dogs and cats. It is said to be about 22- 44% of dogs and cats population. Lifestyle of the dogs and cats is stated to play a major role in the health of the pet in the development of the disease. One of the noted reason is that pet dogs and cats have become more family members and have lost some of the working animal abilities that keeps them active. Additionally, sometimes excess feeding, treats contribute to the issue including not being aware of the weight gain issues associated with your pet. As a result of this, the dog or cat can develop an insulin resistance or diminished glucose metabolism4.
Pregnant dogs have also been found to be more vulnerable and at a higher risk of developing diabetes. The lifelong impacts of diabetes are detrimental and it is always better to take steps to ensure your pets do not develop diabetes. A lot of the products and foods available for pets contain chemicals that affect the pancreas, and hence increase their odds of developing diabetes.
We firmly believe in the organic and holistic way of life. Below, we discuss the livelong impacts, early signs and steps you can take to lower your pet’s chances of developing diabetes.
Lifelong impacts of Diabetes if left untreated
Extreme weakness and a lower quality of life: If left untreated, diabetes can lead to extreme weight loss, excruciating pain, and depression in your pets. With the deterioration or lack of muscles, your pets would be unable to maintain an active lifestyle and would develop mobility issues.
Infections: Dogs who develop diabetes are known to also develop a number of other infections on a recurring basis. Skin, bladder and kidney infections are the most common infections usually associated with diabetes in pets2.
Blindness: Diabetic dogs have been known to sometimes develop cataracts in their eyes and this can lead to blindness. In rare cases, this condition has also been observed in cats2.
Amputations: In advanced cases where the muscles have been completely destroyed beyond repair, an amputation is required.
Death: In the worst case scenario, diabetes can lead to death. Furthermore, in cases too advanced to manage, your veterinary doctor might advise you to putdown your pet. This usually happens when no amount of medication can improve the quality of life and prolonging whatever time they have left is tantamount torture.
Signs your dog may have or be in the early stages of prediabetes
Taking your dog/cat in for regular checkups is the most effective way to diagnose prediabetes early. Cases that are caught early on can usually be reversed before it develops into a lifelong condition and instances where the condition persists are managed a lot easier. Below are a few signs that your dog may be developing diabetes:
- Excessive consumption of water and frequent urination1: This is due to the excessive glucose in the blood stream. Excess glucose leaves the body via the urine, hence more water is needed during for this process.
- Recurring infections (especially of those associated with diabetes)
- Weight loss: When your dog/cat is losing weight even after you have noticed an increase in appetite. This might be a sign that the glucose produced in the intestine isn’t being transported to the body’s cells. As a result, the cells have resorted to consuming the muscles and fatty cells in the body.
- Cloudy eyes: This may indicate the initial stage of blindness sometimes seen in pets. It usually precludes the formation of cataracts in the eyes
- Loss of Appetite: In some cases, your pets may lose their appetite. This is as a result of excess glucose in the blood stream and the body’s way of limiting the injection of even more glucose.
Steps you can take to reduce the odds of dog/cat developing diabetes
There are steps you can take to reduce the chances of your pets developing diabetes early on or at a later stage in their lives. The earlier these lifelong changes and steps are taken, the better the chances of your pets living a diabetes free life.
Spay female dogs with a family history of diabetes: Some females have been shown to develop diabetes during pregnancy. Hence, if your dog already has a family history of diabetes, it is better to spay her just to be safe.
Avoid extended use of cortisone type drugs: The use of drugs like Glucocorticoids and corticosteroids have been shown to have harmful effects on the pancreas if used for an extended period of time. To avoid this, use alternative organic / holistic methods to treat your dog/cat.
Exercise your pets regularly: This is good for their overall health and immune system. It helps with increased blood flow, which is good for the internal organs and their processes. This also helps them maintain their body weight and fight off infections.
Moreover, this reduces the amount of glucose in their bloodstream (elimination through sweat). You should take your dog on a long walk at least once a day and a light jog every other day. It may be a little more difficult to exercise your cats, speak to your Vet about acceptable methods.
Maintenance a of healthy body weight: This is really important in maintaining the overall health of your pet as obese animals are more likely to develop health issues.
Avoid food brands that are over-processed: Over-processed food contain chemicals that are detrimental to organs of your pets over an extended period of consumption. These affect the way the bodies naturally process food and can lead to pancreatic issues. The best option would always be homemade pet food, but if that is not feasible, be careful of the brands you purchase.
Avoid food brands that contain high sugar levels: Once again, you should pay close attention to the ingredients and the sugar levels in your pet’s food brand. Avoid those that contain high levels of sugar, as these can contribute to health issues and lead to diabetes.
Once a dog has developed diabetes, it is hardly ever reversed and in a lot of cases the dog will need daily insulin shoots for the rest of its life. While it is a lot easier to reverse diabetes developed in cats as a result of cortisone drug medications2. It has been shown that after a short period of treatment, the felines begin producing insulin naturally again. This only happens when the cause of this disease is known.
Another interesting fact, it is stated that diabetic cat resembles type 2 diabetes in human more closely. This does not apply to dogs which are different in classification when compared to humans.3
Typically, type 2 does not frequently occur in dogs because their pancreas is able to handle the demand for insulin. However, the obesity problem makes them more prone to develop diabetes anyways. The issue is that with obesity, the dog is at risk to develop pancreatitis which leads to destruction of important beta cells.4 Subscribe to receive more information on ways to protect your pets.
- “Diabetes in Pets”. American Veterinary Medical Association. https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Diabetes-in-Pets.aspx. Accessed 5th October, 2018.
- “Diabetes Mellitus”. Washington State University. https://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/outreach/Pet-Health-Topics/categories/diseases/diabetes-mellitus. Accessed 5th October, 2018.
- Hoenig M1. "Comparative aspects of diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats". Mol Cell Endocrinol.2002 Nov 29;197(1-2):221-9
- Charlotte Bjørnvad1 "Lifestyle and diabetes mellitus in cats and dogs" Published online 2015 Sep 25. doi: 10.1186/1751-0147-57-S1-K4