Diabetes in Pets: How You Can Make a Difference

It’s not just a disease in humans, cats and dogs get diabetes too. In fact, the illness is steadily increasing among American pets. While your pet can lead a happy life with diabetes, it’s still a condition that requires constant, lifelong management and care.

Type I diabetes is inherited, so there is little you can do to prevent your young puppy from developing this condition. Type II diabetes, however, manifests in dogs later in life (around 7-10 years of age) when their body stops using insulin properly or stops using it altogether. Insulin is crucial because it provides amino acids, electrolytes, fatty acids, and most notably sugar to cells in the body. If cells do not get these nutrients, they starve. Starved cells lead to all sorts of trouble such as blindness, organ failure, and even death.

Fortunately, type II diabetes is preventable. While the exact cause of diabetes is still unknown, obesity is a major contributing factor. There are many actions you can take to prevent obesity in your pet and thus significantly decrease the chances of your pet developing type II diabetes.

Diet and exercise are two of the most important things you can to do mitigate pet obesity. Dogs, and humans, must maintain good cardiovascular health. We recommend at least 20 minutes of increased heart rate for your dog per day, so take your dog jogging in the park or play with him in the backyard when you get home from work. Your dog will follow your lead and if you live a sedentary lifestyle, he will too. With good exercise comes good cardiovascular health, regulated hormones, healthy weight, and more muscle.

Your dog also needs to be put on a portion controlled and balanced diet that is species-appropriate. Domestic animals in America consume food too high in carbs and calories. Carbohydrates, or starch, then break down in the body as sugar, and too much sugar can lead to diabetes. A healthy diet consists of healthy fats, protein, fruit in moderation and vegetables low in starch.

Another factor that may lead to diabetes is too frequent vaccinations. Improvements in vaccines that not only are more effective but longer lasting mean that not all immunizations need to be repeated yearly. Vaccinating your dog for a disease he’s already immune to can cause overestimation of his immune system. This can then cause his immune system to attack important cells, cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, for example. The development of adult-onset diabetes can result. You should talk to your vet about an appropriate immunization schedule for your pet.

We all want our pet to live a life as carefree as possible, and diabetes is an illness that can take a toll on both owner and pet. It is time consuming, resource consuming, and requires frequent checkups, tests, insulin injections, and constant monitoring of blood glucose levels. Do what you can to prevent obstacles like these that could, in any way, impair your pet’s quality of life.