What does pet health look like this month?
Welcome to the November edition of our ‘We Are One Health’ pet owner blog series. Each month we explore a different topic related to our companion animals. This month the topic is diabetes and how to spot the symptoms and care for your animal that has diabetes, as well as what you can do as an owner to prevent your pet from developing diabetes in the first place.
Much like humans, pets can develop diabetes at any point in their life, and it may not always be obvious to spot. It can become increasingly distressing if owners see their pets clearly unwell, but not be sure what is causing it or how to improve their condition. Both dogs and cats can suffer from diabetes but there are differences between species, such as symptoms, causes and if it is curable - for example, Type 2 diabetes in cats can go into remission if diet and treatment is started early and successfully. By picking up on signs early and with the right medical attention and care, you can ensure your pet retains a good quality of life for years to come.
Symptoms of diabetes
Diabetes can be extremely hard to spot in pets and can resemble symptoms of other diseases such as hyperthyroidism. However, there are some key signs to look out for including drinking more than usual, urinating more frequently, increase in appetite, loss of weight despite the increase in appetite, vomiting, being off their food or looking depressed.
If you suspect your pet may have symptoms of diabetes it is vital that you take them to a vet to be examined properly. Diabetes can be tricky to diagnose, usually glucose levels in the blood and urine will be tested if there are suspicions of diabetes. To confirm the diagnosis, vets may need to also test fructosamine in the blood. If your pet is found to be suffering from the illness, your vet will be able to advise on the best way to care for your animal going forwards.
How diabetes is treated
Once your vet has diagnosed your pet as having diabetes, you will usually be given a management plan to ensure that they maintain a happy life. This plan will tend to consist of daily insulin medication, which are currently only available in injections: your vet will show you how to administer this. A special diet and an exercise plan are also very important in controlling the symptoms of diabetes in your pet. Sometimes even with all your best efforts, diabetes can be a difficult disease to control and usually numerous visits to the vets will be needed.
Diabetes in dogs
Around one in five hundred dogs in the UK will develop diabetes in their lifetime. Dogs who are more susceptible to developing the condition are Labradors, Keeshunds, Springer Spaniels, Golden Retrievers and Old English Sheepdogs as well as middle-aged and older unspayed bitches. A life-long condition, diabetes in dogs is most similar to human type 1 diabetes that would require twice daily insulin injections.
Diabetes in cats
Approximately one in three hundred cats in the UK will be diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes in cats more closely resembles human type 2 diabetes and while still serious, it can be managed with diet and medication. It is also possible for cats to go into remission, meaning that they will no longer need insulin injections. Diabetes is more common in middle-aged or elderly cats and is more prevalent in males than females.
We spoke with cat owner Mary to find out how she looks after her cat, Guss, who has diabetes.
When did you find out that Guss had diabetes? Did he exhibit any symptoms?
About 6 months ago; his appetite was immense and he was constantly pestering for food, but he didn't seem to be gaining that much weight.
When Guss was diagnosed, what information did the vet give you to help improve his quality of life?
We were advised that we should control his eating, but let him live his life as normally as possible. Physically he wasn't in any danger from playing outside and running around so we were told not to disrupt that part of his routine; he's an old man so he’s quite lazy anyway, but it was fine to let him continue as before in that respect.
How do you treat Guss’ diabetes now?
Guss is medicated with insulin, via syringe, in the morning and evening. He's pretty used to it now and doesn't wince at all. When he was diagnosed I was really anxious about giving him injections because I didn’t want to hurt him, but our vet was fantastic and showed us how to administer his medication in a way that caused minimal stress both to Guss and to us! We feel much happier now that he is used to it and it’s just a part of his daily routine that we all accept and get on with as best we can.
Have you had to make any lifestyle adjustments for Guss to help him with his diabetes?
Whenever we go out for the day we have to be aware that we have to get back within a certain time-frame to give Guss his insulin otherwise he will go into hypoglycaemic shock. It isn't a massive life adjustment, but just something that we have to consider every day. The same applies to sleeping in in the mornings; we have to adapt to Guss' schedule.