When people talk about animal diabetes, they are most often referring to dogs and cats, our most popular pets. Historically, testing for diabetes on canines and felines has been preferred because they have diabetes symptoms similar to humans. In recent times, however, rats and mice have been used to better understand the complexities of diabetes in animals, and thus humans, mostly because of the ethical and legal debates surrounding the use of dogs and cats in a testing environment.
Depending on the resource, it is estimated that approximately 1 in 400-500 dogs and 1 in 200 cats is diagnosed with diabetes mellitus. These figures are estimates because they are based on known diabetic cases and visits to animal veterinarians. Many believe more dogs and cats have diabetes mellitus due to unreported and undiagnosed cases.
Canine or Dog Diabetes
The most common form of diabetes in canines, or dogs, is Type 1 diabetes mellitus although 5-20% of cats suffer from it, as well. Cats typically suffer from Type 2 diabetes mellitus, the most common form of diabetes diagnosed in obese humans. Middle aged, spayed dogs are more susceptible to diabetes. If left untreated, diabetes can cause blindness, ketoacidosis, dehydration and even death.
Typically older dogs are more susceptible to diabetes mellitus but younger canines have also been known to be diagnosed with juvenile canine diabetes.
The diabetic symptoms to watch for in dogs are excessive drinking and urination. Appetites may also fluctuate from frequent to hardly anything at all. Symptoms may not be as pronounced at the outset but will progress as the weeks do. If not treated or treated unsuccessfully to this point, diabetic dogs could suffer vision impairment.
The best ways to test for canine diabetes mellitus is with human glucose strips (urine) or a blood glucose meter (ear prick for a droplet of blood), each available for purchase at your local pharmacy.
The diabetic diet for a canine should focus on reducing the amount of carbohydrates – not eliminating them but reducing them – and increasing the amount of fiber.
Feline or Cat Diabetes
The most common form of diabetes in felines, or cats, is Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
When dogs, however, contract diabetes, it is usually in the form of Type 1 diabetes mellitus. Type Two (2) diabetes mellitus in cats is treatable with diet and medication and does not have to alter their quality of life. If left untreated, though, diabetes in cats can lead to weak legs as well as ketoacidosis, dehydration and eventual death.
Younger cats and felines under the age of seven are not susceptible to diabetes mellitus.
Diabetes susceptibility in cats is more random in that there does not appear to be any relationship to age or gender although overweight cats, like humans, are more likely to contract the diabetes disease than will cats in good health and at average weights.
The diabetic symptoms to watch for in cats and felines are similar to those in dogs: excessive drinking and urination. Appetites in felines may fluctuate from frequent to non-existent. Diabetic symptoms in cats may not be as pronounced at the beginning but will progress over a few weeks time. If not treated or treated unsuccessfully to this point, diabetic cats, instead of vision impairment as dogs suffer, will suffer weakened hind legs. You may notice your cat walking with an unsteady gait – even appearing a bit tipsy.
The best ways to test for feline diabetes mellitus are with either a urine test (human glucose strips) or a blood glucose test (blood glucose meter). All of the animal diabetes testing equipment you need can be found at your local pharmacy. Or call your veterinarian.
Other than insulin medication, diabetic cats seem to respond well, as do diabetic dogs, to a modified diet that emphasizes low carbohydrates. Whereas carbs are processed into blood glucose quickly, fats and proteins, on the other hand, are not. Typically, dry cat foods contain a high level of carbs so opt for canned cat food instead.