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Dec 01 2011

Diabetes and your pet

Diabetes mellitus, commonly shortened to diabetes, is a disease that threatens both humans and pets. Paralleling the situation in humans, more and more cats and dogs are being diagnosed with diabetes than ever before.

There are 2 types of diabetes mellitus in pets, insulin-dependent diabetes, where the body is unable to produce insulin, and insulin-resistant diabetes, where the body is less responsive to the effects of insulin. Regardless of the cause, both forms of diabetes result in chronically elevated levels of sugar in the blood.

The classic symptoms of diabetes mellitus in pets include increased thirst, increased urination, and increased appetite. In addition, pets with diabetes may become lethargic, lose weight, or

have a dull haircoat. Sometimes, the first sign that a dog has developed diabetes is the appearance of cataracts. Cats with diabetes may develop ‘dropped hocks’, a weakness of their muscles that causes them to walk on their hocks (heels) instead of their toes.

This disease is influenced by genetics and environmental factors. Although certain breeds of dogs appear to have a higher risk of developing this disease, other factors such as age and obesity play important roles in the development of diabetes in our pets. Diabetes tends to be a disease of middle-aged to older animals. But of all the risk factors, obesity is the most alarming one, since it is now estimated that almost half of all dogs and close to sixty percent of all cats in Canada and the U.S. are overweight.

If your pet is diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, you may initially feel overwhelmed – but this disease is manageable with the right combination of medications, weight loss and proper nutrition. Insulin injections remain the main type of treatment used to manage diabetic animals.

However, weight loss and proper nutrition are just as important when it comes to managing the diabetic animal. For both dogs and cats, weight loss is important because obesity is a common cause of insulin resistance, and fatty tissue releases factors that impair the effects of insulin, thus making it more difficult to regulate the disease. Weight loss can be accomplished by changing your pet’s diet combined with increasing the amount of exercise your pet gets.

Proper nutrition is vital for the control of diabetes, and nutritional recommendations for dogs are very different than those for cats. Dogs with uncomplicated diabetes respond well to a diet that is high-fibre, high-carbohydrate, and low-fat. Cats with uncomplicated diabetes respond much better to a diet that is high-protein and low-carbohydrate; indeed, recent nutritional studies show that switching to a low-carbohydrate and high-protein canned food may be the most effective dietary routine for many diabetic cats.

These nutritional differences likely are related to the fact that dogs are omnivores, capable of eating a varied diet of meats, grains, and plants, while cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they must get much of their nutritional requirements from meat proteins.

For more detailed information about diabetes in dogs and cats, check our website for relevant handouts or contact our clinic so that staff can provide you with handouts or personalized information.

Remember, when it comes to diabetes mellitus and your pet, an ounce of prevention by avoiding obesity is definitely worth the pound of cure that would be necessary to treat an animal with diabetes!

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Caution: These news items, written by Lifelearn Inc., are licensed to this practice for the personal use of our clients. Any copying, printing or further distribution is prohibited without the express written permission of Lifelearn Inc. Please note that the news information presented here is NOT a substitute for a proper consultation and/or clinical examination of your pet by our clinic veterinarian.

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