overweight cat sitting on hard wooden floor

Diabetes In Dogs And Cats – What You Need To Know


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We’ve all been tempted to give in to those big, pleading eyes and dish out an extra portion of dinner for our pets from time to time. While occasional treats won’t harm your furry friends in the long term, weight gain needs to be taken seriously. Diabetes in dogs and cats is a growing problem, and obesity is one of the leading causes of pet diabetes.

With careful management and top pet parenting though, pet diabetes can often be successfully avoided. Here’s everything you need to know about the warning signs, treatment, and diagnosis of diabetes in dogs and cats.

November is National Pet Diabetes Month and with a recent estimate putting over 40% of Australia’s dogs and over 30% of Australia’s cats as obese or overweight, it’s clear that pet weight gain is on the rise. Owners need to be vigilant. Know that some breeds like the Labrador Retriever, for example, are prone to weight gain and safeguard them through preventative measures.

While a chubby pet might make for some cute Instagram photos, carrying extra weight comes with serious consequence for your animals.

For example, the risk for diabetes in cats increases by four times when your cat is classed as obese. And if that wasn’t enough motivation to keep the weight off your pet, obesity often also brings with it a plethora of related conditions.

Health problems as a result of pet obesity can include joint and ligament problems, lack of energy, difficulties with breathing, heart and lung problems, high blood pressure, and a generally lower quality of life. Read about hip dysplasia in dogs and IVDD in Dachshunds (and other breeds) to discover ways to safeguard pets from obesity-related joint and ligament problems.

signs of diabetes in dogs show as low energy in this pup

Signs of diabetes in dogs and cats

It’s important that pet owners are vigilant about their animals’ health. Keep an eye out for any warning signs that something might not be quite right. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your dog or cat might be diabetic, as the signs of diabetes in pets are often quite general. They can go unnoticed or be misdiagnosed.

When it comes to the signs of diabetes in pets, here are some things to look out for:

  • Excessive thirst and frequent urination. (Notice how often you refill water bowls).
  • Weight loss. (Your pet might be eating but dropping the pounds due to their body’s inability to absorb nutrients).
  • Cloudy eyes. (This is especially the case in dogs).
  • Chronic or recurring infections. (This includes skin infections and urinary infections).

If you notice any of these symptoms of diabetes in your pet, be sure to visit a vet immediately and voice your concerns. Your prompt action could save your pet’s life! Also find out how to assess average cat weight.

Managing diabetes in pets

Early detection and swift treatment of diabetes in dogs and cats is key to giving your pet the best quality of life. Just like with people, good medical care and lifestyle management means that diabetic pets can still lead long and healthy lives with careful monitoring and awareness.

The goal of diabetes treatment in pets is to keep blood glucose levels normal and stable. This will typically mean that owners need to feed their pets a specific diet, conduct regular testing on blood glucose levels, and monitor for any changes in symptoms.

Diabetes in dogs and cats alike usually requires treatment with daily insulin injections. However, there may be some rare exceptions where this is not needed.  

russian blue cat relaxing on bed with white sheets looking up at camera

Helping your pet avoid diabetes

The phrase ‘prevention is better than cure’ definitely applies when it comes to diabetes in cats and dogs. It’s completely true that obesity is not the only factor at play when it comes to pet diabetes, and not all cases can be avoided by lifestyle management. However, you can manage your pets’ risk of developing diabetes by taking their health and weight seriously.

Ask your veterinarian what and how much you should be feeding your pet, and stick to this at mealtimes.

If your pet begins to lose or gain weight on their current diet, you can adjust it within reason. But don’t give in to the puppy dog eyes or pitiful meows with another handful of kibble if your pet is a healthy weight! Make sure to account for any scraps or treats when you’re feeding your pet too, as these can often be high in calories.

In addition to managing food, increasing exercise can also help to improve your pet’s overall health and weight.

With dogs, this might take the form of more walks, runs, or games of fetch.

Cat people will know that their feline friends can be harder to motivate than dogs, but anything that encourages them to move more can really reap benefits.

Read our article on National Obesity Day for lifestyle tips to manage and prevent weight gain in pets.

brown fat dog on wooden chair suffers from diabetes in dogs

Planning ahead pre-diabetes

Getting pet insurance for your dog or cat before any diabetes warning signs appear is important. That way it’s not a pre-existing condition when you take out insurance, which means you won’t be covered for it. Then you can easily get them the treatment they deserve.

Check out our dog insurance plans and cat insurance plans for more details.

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