Diabetes in Pets – What To Look Out For

There has been a massive increase in diabetes worldwide, especially in dogs and cats.  It is estimated that 1 in 500 dogs have diabetes and as many as 1 in 100 cats currently suffer from this disease.

The term “diabetes” is commonly used to refer to Diabetes Mellitus, a chronic lifelong disease in which there are high levels of sugar in the blood. 

What is diabetes and what causes it? 

Once food enters the digestive system, it is broken down into smaller components for use by the body. Carbohydrates are converted into various sugars, including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the blood which carries it to cells in the body. Glucose can only enter into most cells if insulin is present. 

Insulin is a hormone produced by specific cells in the pancreas (namely beta cells).  Insulin moves glucose from the bloodstream into muscle; fat, and liver cells, where it can be used to provide the body with energy (fuel).

In animals as well as humans with diabetes – the body cannot ‘move’ sugar into the fat, liver, and muscle cells to be stored for energy and it therefore begins to accumulate in the blood. This is due to the cells in the pancreas producing little to no insulin, or the body is having an abnormal response to insulin.

There are mainly two types of diabetes mellitus:

Type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes: results from the body’s inability to produce insulin due to the destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas. It is also referred to as juvenile diabetes as it generally occurs during the early years of life. This is a less common form of diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes results from irregular insulin production (i.e. dysfunctional beta cells) or the body’s failure to respond to insulin properly and is by far the more common type of diabetes. Symptoms develop slowly over a period of time and are normally observed in senior or obese animals. (Humans too)!

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

What goes in must come out….so where glucose stays in the blood instead of passing into the cells with the help of insulin, it will eventually be excreted by the body in the urine – causing your pet to drink large amounts of water which results in excessive urination. So frequent urination and excessive thirst are the most common indicators that your pet may be suffering from diabetes.

Weight loss, despite a huge appetite is also a symptom to watch out for. Is your pet always begging for more food but never picks up the weight? When the cells of the body are not receiving the required nutrients to keep functioning properly, the brain sends signals to the animal’s body to tell it that it is very hungry. The body then begins to break down its stored resources to survive (i.e. muscle and fat) thus weight loss occurs.

Other signs that diabetes could be present include

  • Cloudy eyes
  • Restlessness
  • Sleepiness or constant tiredness
  • A dull hair coat, and even hair loss
  • Wobbliness, or weakness in the legs
  • Seizures

*Always consult your vet for a proper diagnosis. When consulting with your vet about diabetes, he or she will need to conduct a blood and urine test as soon as possible. In the case of diabetes mellitus, these tests should reveal that glucose is present both in the urine, and in high levels in the blood.

  • Diabetes in dogs

Middle-aged dogs are most commonly affected by diabetes mellitus but it is also seen in young dogs of both sexes. Female dogs are twice as likely to be affected as males. Certain breeds of dogs also experience above-average incidences of diabetes. These breeds include: Toy Poodles, Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Pomeranians. 

Dogs can get it because of immune-mediated disease in which the dog’s own antibodies attack and kill the pancreatic beta cells. Both dogs and cats can develop the disease because of inflammation of the pancreas (called pancreatitis), as well as hereditary defects of the pancreatic beta cells, obesity, other illnesses, and infections. 

  • Diabetes in cats

Diabetes is also more common in middle- to older-aged cats and those that are overweight. Also, neutered male cats are at greater risk than female cats. Certain breeds, such as Siamese cats, experience an above-average incidence of diabetes. Cats often get the disease from the accumulation of a special kind of protein around the beta cells. 

Treatment

As mentioned above, there are primarily two main causes for diabetes:  genetics and lifestyle. 

While you can’t influence genetics, one of the main causes of diabetes is a poor or incorrect diet, and a lifestyle without sufficient exercise. 

a) Diet

It is essential to make a dietary change once your pet has been diagnosed with diabetes. Think about it –  consuming foods rich in fats/ starches & carbs without any real nutritional basis and an exercise regime to burn it off, is hardly helpful. Many vets will prescribe a specialist dry food kibble but we believe biologically appropriate  – real living food, as nature intended, is your most important treatment. 

…. the below extract is from B.A.R.F India: 

 “Don’t be afraid to switch to a different diet!

Assuming you did try the diabetic commercial diet and it didn’t work for your dog, don’t be afraid to switch. Different dogs need different diets. If your dog’s diabetes is not being taken care of by commercial dog food, it does not mean a raw diet won’t work too.

Raw feeding is a good solution for diabetes!

With a raw diet, your focus will be on feeding whole and healthy foods. This is ideal for a diabetic pet as it reduces the stress on its internal organs. Your pet gets all the necessary (and right) vitamins. You also know that a raw diet eliminates most chemicals and preservatives, and there are hardly any unnecessary carbohydrates in a raw diet. 

Say no to treats, unless raw or grain free!

If you buy ready-made commercial dog treats, understand that you are feeding your dog nothing but a bag full of carbs, sugars, and fats, not to mention tons of artificial ingredients. If you won’t eat these, why would you feed them to your dog?

Throw that bag out and introduce your dog to diabetic-friendly whole food treats, like carrots, apples (without the core), blueberries, melon, broccoli, natural fish jerky, and oatmeal-based homemade treats.

 Keep tabs on how much your pet eats!

The quickest way to worsen your pet’s diabetes is indiscriminate feeding. This means fixed meal times, no in-between snacking, no table scraps and definitely no extra treats. Make sure everyone in your family understands this and doesn’t do any kind of ‘pity’ feeding. 

One small treat can mess up blood sugar levels! 

Have you given BARF a thought? Basic Ancestral Raw Food / Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding

The best way to combat diabetes in your pet is to feed it a balanced, species-appropriate food. And the best option is to feed it raw – your pet needs and will thrive on a raw diet.

Raw food is natural and it contains the right mix of all the nutrients and goodness your pet needs, but most importantly, it doesn’t have any of the allergy-causing grains!” 

b) Exercise and insulin

Besides dietary intervention, dogs and cats may also need to be supplemented with insulin. Your vet will be able to guide you in this regard to determine the correct dosage. In addition, adding a healthy exercise regime will go along way in helping diabetic animals that are obese.

Ready to make the switch to Raw Love Pets? Shop online or find your nearest outlet here.