Amarillo, TX - During a recent four-year study, Banfield hospitals have seen a 32 percent jump in cases of canine diabetes and a 16 percent increase in feline diabetes.
Doctor at Noah's Art Pet Hospital, Merten Pearson, said he treats many patients with diabetes. "It's been creeping up over time in the last 22 years that I've been out of vet school," Pearson said. "We're seeing it a little more and I think in part is because people are letting their pets get fatter and fatter and that kind of sets you up for just like it does in people.
There are two types of pet diabetes, insulin- dependent, which is when the body is unable to produce insulin. There is also insulin-resistant diabetes, where the body is less responsive to the efforts if insulin. Both forms of diabetes result in chronically elevated levels of sugar in the blood.
This disease is influenced by genetics and environmental factors. Certain breeds of dogs have a higher risk of developing the disease; however, other factors such as age and obesity play important roles in the development of diabetes. Middle-aged to older animals are more commonly diagnosed with diabetes.
Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, urination, and appetite. Pets may also become lethargic, experience weight loss, or have dull fur. Dogs that have diabetes may first develop cataracts. Cats with diabetes may develop a weakness in their muscles that causes them to walk on their heels instead of their toes.
The disease is manageable with the right combination of medications, weight loss and proper nutrition. However, insulin injections and a strict diet are the main types of treatment used to manage diabetic animals. "Not only do we do insulin therapy, but I also put them on a diet that doesn't spike their blood sugar," Pearson said. "It tends to bring the blood sugar up slower over time and not get it as high, which help control it and makes it easier for the insulin to do it's job."
It is possible to prevent diabetes through controlling a pets weight and feeding them a balanced diet that does not include eating table scraps. Pet owners should not use human meters on their pets to spot test their sugar levels, but Pearson disagrees. "I have really good luck using a human glucose meter," Pearson said. "I've matched it up with the diagnostic lab testing samples and I get reasonable close results." He said he gets a "pretty good correlation" in between what he sees on a blood glucose meter that you can use for a human and what he gets on his lab and at the diagnostic lab.
A pet's blood sugar can be monitored at home, but pet owners have to be careful and administer the correct dosage. Pearson said sometimes pet owners do not test for a curve in the sugar levels and can give their pets the incorrect amount of insulin, which can be fatal. He suggests bringing pets to their veterinarians to have their blood levels checked.