WHAT IS DIABETES?

Diabetes mellitus, the medical name for diabetes, is a disease caused by a lack of insulin that affects the level of glucose, or sugar in your dog or cat’s blood. The glucose comes from the food that your pet eats. The food is broken down into very small components by the digestive system so that the body can use it for energy. Glucose is one of these components, and an important source of energy. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream where it travels to cells throughout the body. Insulin is required for the cells to absorb glucose. Insulin is produced by the pancreas in response to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Healthy pets produce insulin easily, but pets with diabetes don’t. In canine and feline diabetes, unused glucose builds up in the bloodstream.

Is diabetes in pets the same as in humans?

The two conditions are very similar. In fact, your veterinary practitioner will be using medication, equipment and monitoring systems that are similar to those used for diabetic people. How common is diabetes in dogs and cats? Diabetes is reported to affect anywhere between 1 in 100 to 1 in 500 dogs and cats. But experts believe that this disease is on the rise. Can diabetes lead to other health problems? Yes. Dogs and cats with diabetes can develop other health problems, usually after living with diabetes for a year or more. For dogs, the most common complication of diabetes is cataract formation. Persistently high blood glucose levels make the lens of the eye become opaque, causing blindness. For cats, weakness of the hind legs is a common complication. Persistently high blood glucose levels may damage nerves, causing weakness and muscle wasting. For both dogs and cats, avoiding high blood glucose levels should help prevent or delay these complications. For this reason, early diagnosis of diabetes in your dog or cat is especially important.

Will diabetes affect my dog or cat’s life expectancy?

Today, with effective treatment and monitoring, a diabetic dog or cat should have the same life expectancy as a non-diabetic dog or cat. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment help diabetic pets maintain a good quality of life.

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