Diabetes in Dogs and Cats, Part 3: Treating Diabetes

For many pet parents, the thought of treating diabetes in their pet is overwhelming.   Up to 40% of cats and 60% of dogs will be euthanized within a year of diagnosis.  Treating a diabetic animal is challenging, but pets with diabetes can have an excellent quality of life with proper care.

Initial stabilization and treatment

The period of time immediately after a pet is diagnosed with diabetes may be particularly challenging.  Pets with complications of their diabetes, like ketoacidosis, or pets that also have other diseases may need to be hospitalized.  Most veterinarians put newly diagnosed pets on twice daily insulin injections.  With some types of insulin, once-daily injections may be possible.  Veterinarians adjust the dose based on blood glucose control.  Control is assessed using blood glucose curves.  This means that your veterinarian will assess blood samples at various times after your pet is fed and treated with insulin to determine how long the insulin is acting iand how well the dose controls the peak blood sugar.  Glucose curves may be done in the clinic or at home.

Just as it is in people, diet is a very important part of treating diabetes in pets.  Your veterinarian will most likely recommend a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet for a cat, or a high-fiber diet for a dog.  Exercise is also key.  Exercise helps your pet’s body use glucose more efficiently.  Increase your pet’s activity level gradually once diabetes is stabilized.

For the initial treatment phase, you will need syringes and insulin, and perhaps a blood glucose monitor and strips.  You may need to purchase a special diet for your pet.  Be prepared for frequent visits to your veterinarian during this time.  This period can be expensive, but there are options to decrease costs.  Pets with Diabetes is a good resource for parents of diabetic pets.

Treating diabetes in the long term

After your veterinarian stabilizes your pet and the dose is adjusted, you will need to continue to monitor your pet’s blood sugar frequently.  Some cats will experience diabetic remission.  This means that they will no longer require insulin.  Dogs will need to remain on insulin for life.  There are some non-insulin, oral therapies available for people with type 2 diabetes.  Unfortunately, no oral treatment has been approved for animals yet.

A number of other diseases may affect your dog’s response to insulin.  For this reason, it is necessary for your vet to monitor your dog’s health closely.   In  both cats and dogs, diabetes can lead to other health problems that pet parents should watch for.  Even welll-controlled diabetic dogs may develop cloudy eyes, or cataracts.  Cats may develop weakness in their legs, especially the hind legs. .Although it is commonly believed that a well-controlled diabetic dog or cat may have a normal life expectancy, there isn’t a lot of research on this topic.  It is certainly true that both cats and dogs with diabetes may live a full and happy life, just as people with this disease do.

If you dog or cat is diagnosed with diabetes, talk to your veterinarian and share your concerns openly. Your vet can help you find the support you need to provide the best possible treatment for  your pet.

Image, Adobe Spark

What do you think? Join the conversation!