Three days ago, this diabetic dog lover broke down and finally went on an insulin pump. I have spent the last few weeks reading up on the disease and the various ways to treat it in humans. As dogs are never far from my thoughts, it wasn’t too long before the idea of diabetes collided with the idea of pets in my brain. How is diabetes in pets diagnosed? What can you do for a pet with diabetes? How do they even get diabetes in the first place? These are all questions I asked myself when I was first diagnosed back in my last sugar-filled year (2005)….and they seemed valid questions now that diabetes in our pets is becoming more common place: about 1 in 500 dogs and 1 in 400 cats have the disease.
I was shocked to discover that human diabetes is extremely similar to diabetes found in dogs and cats. When researching it in dogs, I swear I was reading word for word some of the passages I had just read in my pre-pump training. The symptoms of the disease in pets are lethargy, excessive water consumption, increased urination, and unexplained weight loss or weight gain. (The symptoms in humans are fatigue, increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, and weight loss.) There are two types of diabetes that can be found in people and pets – diabetes insipidus (dealing with kidneys and how they process water) and diabetes mellitus (dealing with insulin deficiency.) These two diseases are completely different, but for now we are just going to be discussing diabetes mellitus – which is divided into Type 1 and Type 2 for humans, cats, and dogs.
Interestingly, Type 1 is more common than Type 2 in our pets…completely opposite of us humans. Cats are more likely to develop Type 2 , though….while nearly all dogs have Type 1. This means that dogs almost always have to be administered insulin shots while cats can often get off with a change of diet and other medications. (Maybe we should change the expression to “You lucky cat!”)
What I found especially fascinating was the fact that you can use a human glucometer to test the blood sugar of dogs and cats. Isn’t that crazy?! You can also the same insulin (literally the exact same insulin that I use myself) on dogs and cats. (Heaven help you if you have to give your kitty insulin shots!)
Bigger dogs are more susceptible to developing diabetes…along with certain breeds (Labs, Poodles, Miniature Schnauzer, Dachshunds to name a few) that seem prone to the disease. Sometimes it is hereditary (just like humans.)
Sadly…obesity seems to play a HUGE part in diabetes developing in dogs and cats. This has become an epidemic among American people and their pets. In the next Diabetes & Your Pets post, I am going to post some startling statistics about how overweight our pets are. Be sure to check back this week!