10 Signs Your Pet May Have a Blood Sugar Imbalance
Believe it or not, humans are not the only ones at risk of developing diabetes. Your pets are also vulnerable to the development of this disease, and veterinarians are finding that as weight management continues to be a problem for many dogs and cats, canine and feline diabetes is a growing concern.
Just like in humans, canine and feline diabetes is marked by a glucose imbalance caused by either a lack of insulin or the inability for cells to respond to the presence of insulin, which ushers sugar from the blood into the cells where it is processed for vital bodily functions. And just like in humans, the disease can put the health of your pet in jeopardy.
According to Live in the Now Pet Health Editor Dr. Katy Nelson, “Diabetes is not uncommon in middle-aged dogs.” Type 1 diabetes is the most prevalent in dogs while type 2 diabetes is more frequent in . “Nobody knows why it happens, but the cells in the pancreas that make insulin begin to dysfunction.” Nelson adds that certain dog breeds are more prone to developing the condition with terriers and toy poodles being the most susceptible.
Being aware of the symptoms of diabetes is essential in caring for your pet’s health. Consider these 10 warning signs your pet might have diabetes.
1. Frequent Urination
Increased urination (known as polyuria) is a common early symptom of diabetes in pets. Is your house-trained pet having “accidents” around the house all of a sudden? These mishaps may mean your dog or cat is experiencing a blood sugar imbalance that should be addressed sooner than later. Urinary tract infections are also a warning sign, so be sure to ask your vet to also check your pet’s glucose levels if a UTI is ever diagnosed.
2. Excessive Drinking or Dehydration
Have you noticed your pet suddenly drinking more water than usual? This hallmark of dehydration is an early, cautionary indication of canine and feline diabetes. Increased/excessive thirst (called polydipsia) runs hand in hand with increased urination, causing many owners to dismiss the two as having a simple cause and effect association. But these symptoms should not be ignored. If it seems like “all of a sudden, you can’t keep the water bowl full and a house-trained dog is going all over the place,” explains Nelson, “it’s time to head to the veterinarian.”
3. Increased Appetite
If your dog or cat unexpectedly acts as if the usual amount of food you fill his bowl with is not enough, this can be a red flag as well. Increased hunger or starvation (referred to as polyphagia) is another easily ignored sign of a blood sugar imbalance in pets. So think twice the next time your dog gives you that longing gaze for more food.
4. Sudden Weight Change
Rapid weight loss is a common symptom of potential glucose trouble. Even though your pet’s increase in appetite may be causing you to feed him more than his typical daily amount of food, he can still be losing weight. This sudden decrease in weight occurs because in some cases diabetes can result in an increased metabolism. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, is the role obesity plays in the development of this disease. In pets as in humans, carrying a few extra pounds increases the risk for diabetes. If your dog or cat has been gaining weight lately, it is important to be on the lookout for the presence of the additional warning signs listed.
5. Thinning or Brittle Hair
Pay special attention to the hair along your furry friend’s back. If hair is thinning or becoming increasingly dry, it could be an indication of possible diabetes, or other endocrine diseases. In fact, be sure to always keep a close eye on the quality of your pet’s hair in this area, as changes can be a general sign of sickness. If you notice changes, such as thinning and dryness, visit your trusted veterinarian as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis.
6. Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
Along with increased urination and drinking, vomiting and diarrhea are possible side effects of diabetes in animals. These possible symptoms should be viewed as a warning of an underlying illness.
7. Chronic Skin Irritation or Infections
Is your dog relentlessly scratching or licking himself? What you may view as an annoying habit may actually suggest the presence of diabetes. Skin infections and rashes should not go untreated. It is crucial to get this seemingly bad habit or skin infection checked out by your veterinarian.
8. Cloudy Eyes, Cataract Formation or Blindness
Cataracts or cloudy eyes are notable indicators of diabetes in pets, especially dogs. If they remain untreated, cataracts can cause blindness. If your pet’s eyes appear cloudy, it could be an indication that sugars are not properly penetrating cells, causing a buildup of fluid on the lens leading to the development of blinding cataracts. Watch out – cataracts can evolve quickly overnight.
If your pet seems to be increasingly weak, fatigued or lethargic, it could be the result of a glucose imbalance robbing your fury friend of energy. In cats, be on the lookout for weakening in their back legs. If you are a dog owner, watch out for signs of overall exhaustion, such as more frequent naps, decreased play drive, or a decrease in his general level of activity.
Depression can be a late sign of diabetes in your pet, so if you suspect your pet has the blues, you may want to visit a vet sooner than you were planning. Overall signs of unhappiness in your dog or cat are the side effects of insulin deficiency or an imbalance in blood sugar levels that has already reached diabetic status.
If your dog or cat is showing one or more of the signs listed above, it is critical to pay a visit to your veterinarian to explore treatment options. Treatment for diabetes in pets typically involves frequent insulin injections, diet control and improvements in exercise. Holistic treatment options are practiced as well and focus on dietary adjustments.
Dr. Katy Nelson is the mother of five – two human and three animal – kids, an avid nutrition and fitness enthusiast, and an admittedly rabid Louisiana sports fan. She is an associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, VA., as well as the host and executive producer of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” on Washington DC’s News Channel 8. A Certified Veterinary Journalist (CVJ) accredited by the American Society of Veterinary Journalists (ASVJ), Dr. Katy is the Animal Health Reporter for ABC7 News, and serves as “Dr. Pawz” on WTOP Radio. Dr. Katy is also a founding partner of PetsMove.org, a national health and fitness initiative aimed at getting people healthy alongside their dogs, and serves as a media and marketing consultant for numerous pet-related companies and media outlets.
A lover of all animals, Dr. Katy carves out time for many charitable organizations in the DC area and beyond. She is also the co-executive producer on “Tell Them I Am Kind,” a documentary set to air on the PBS Broadcasting network in 2015. The documentary tells the story of the family of Catherine Violet Hubbard, one of the 20 children killed in December of 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and their mission to build an animal sanctuary in her honor.