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Diabetes - a metabolic disease often associated with humans. Over the years, unfortunately, diabetes has started to take over the health of our furry families too. With sedentary lifestyles and under exercising, our pets stand a risk of losing their lives far too early - all for a disease that could've been managed!
Read along to learn more about what Diabetes is, what its symptoms are, how to prevent it, and, more importantly, how to manage it!
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in pets that often stems from sedentary lifestyles, obesity, stress, genetics, daily diet, and the environment.
Insulin deficiency diabetes is when a pet's body cannot produce sufficient insulin - a hormone that breaks down food and turns it into glucose for energy. Insulin is produced by an organ known as the pancreas, and when this organ is damaged or isn't functioning to its optimum, insulin production is affected. Pets with insulin-deficiency diabetes require shots every day to keep their insulin levels at the optimum level.
Insulin resistance diabetes, on the other hand, is when the pancreas produces insulin, but the pet's body isn't able to utilise it to break down food and synthesise energy. This is because the cells aren't responding to insulin, and as a result, glucose is not being broken down.
Insulin deficiency diabetes is most common amongst dogs and cats between the ages of one and seven, whereas insulin resistance diabetes is most prevalent amongst older and obese dogs and cats between the ages of seven and fourteen.
What causes diabetes in pets?
Genetics - Pets whose parents and grandparents have had diabetes stand a higher chance of developing this metabolic disease than dogs with no history of diabetes.
Obesity - Obesity causes insulin resistance and is hence, the most significant risk factor for pancreatitis and diabetes.
Stress - Stress arises for a number of reasons, and most often, has devastating effects on a pet's health in the long run.
Sedentary Lifestyles - Pets who are underexercised or those that spend more than a quarter of their day lying around are more prone to diabetes than others. Sedentary lifestyles lead to weight gain, thereby running the risk of pancreatitis, leading to diabetes.
Age - Older pets are more prone to metabolic diseases such as diabetes simply because as they grow old, their organs function less efficiently than when they were a few years younger. This, coupled with obesity, ages organs much faster than their usual rate.
Gender - As per research, unspayed females and unneutered males are twice likely to develop diabetes.
What are the symptoms of diabetes in pets?
The following symptoms can occur singly or as a combination of two or more -
~ Excessive Thirst
~ Frequent Urination
~ Weight Loss
~ Weight Gain
~ Change in appetite
~ Lack of energy
~ Mood Swings
~ Urinary Tract Infections
~ Cataracts and vision impairments
Is there a cure for diabetes in pets?
Diabetes, once diagnosed, cannot be cured entirely. However, it can be managed to the extent that its effects/symptoms are almost negligible!
How to manage diabetes in pets?
~ Always follow vet-prescribed medications: No matter what you read online or what might have worked for your friend's dog, it is best for you to stick to medications prescribed by your veterinarian. Dogs with diabetes thrive on receiving their medication in the right amount and at the right time - this is because it helps their bodies form an internal clock that tells them when the insulin is coming. This internal clock is beneficial to avoid the dangerous consequences of not receiving insulin on time.
~ Always stick to vet-prescribed diets: All pets with diabetes, regardless of its degree, need diets prescribed by a veterinarian. Diabetic diets for pets are low in calories and rich in fibre - this means that it keeps the dog satiated for long without raising blood glucose levels when they're hungry for a snack every now and then.
~ Never Skip Exercise: A dog that isn't within the standard breed weight only predisposes itself to fewer years of quality life. Alongside medication and a healthy diet, sufficient exercise as per breed and age is crucial in controlling diabetes in pets. When a pet exercises, it loses fat - believe us, it is easy for pets to lose weight - and, this, in turn, helps reduce the risk of pancreatitis.
~ Never skip veterinary visits: When it comes to diabetes, there are good days and bad days, and the best way to increase the number of good days is to never skip vet visits. Your vet may notice something that you might not have, and that can sometimes be a matter of life and death; hence, it's time we lose the excuses and find time to take our pet to the vet every two-three weeks.
~ Monitor and Record: Monitor every symptom, track its onset, and record it in a tiny journal. This helps your vet to make changes to diets, medications, lifestyle habits etc. Besides, on the days you feel like it ain't working, look at the graphs of all the good days!
How to prevent diabetes in pets?
With diabetes, prevention really is better than cure. And, especially when the steps to prevent this disease are so simple -
~ Watch the weight - Never let your pet slide beyond his breed's standard weight.
~ Feed them complete and balanced diets - Feed your dog nutritional meals at the right times of the day and in the right quantities.
~ Exercise, Exercise, Exercise - There really shouldn't be any excuse to not exercise your pet!
~ Ensure they live in a stress-free environment
With these steps, it won't be long before your pet bids diabetes goodbye!