Senior Animals and Diabetes
As your dog or cat ages, they can be more likely to develop diabetes, a condition in which the body cannot effectively utilize glucose, a primary energy source for the body. If left untreated, diabetes can cause a host of significant additional health problems. As with many other conditions in senior animals, early detection and intervention are key to managing the condition and maintaining your animal’s overall health. So, how do you know if your cat or dog has diabetes and how can you help them if they do?
The primary symptoms of diabetes include increased drinking and urination, weight loss despite normal or increased eating, clouding of the eyes or blindness, recurring infections, lethargy, and reduced appetite (news.vet.tufts.edu). If you notice any of these signs in your animal, consult your veterinarian for blood and urine tests to determine if diabetes is the culprit.
If your animal is diagnosed with diabetes, there are several things you can do to help them. You’ll want to change and carefully monitor your animal’s diet to start. Dogs will require high fiber diets and cats will need a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet (avma.org). You will also need to administer insulin with a needle under the skin to your animal and feed them on a regular schedule (avma.org). Your veterinarian will prescribe a specific type and dose of insulin, and it will be very important to follow the instructions for administering carefully. You’ll need to monitor your animal’s blood glucose levels to make sure they don’t get too low or too high. It can be hard to make an animal eat when they don’t want to, so be careful to avoid hypoglycemia in animals that aren’t eating enough. Try enticing your animal to eat by flavoring food. Additionally, watch for signs of too much insulin, which can also be a medical emergency. If your animal shows weakness, tremors, or seizures, consult an emergency veterinary facility (avma.org). Finally, daily exercise will also be vital to maintaining health (avma.org).
Animals with diabetes will need more regular veterinary visits to monitor their condition and check for related diseases that may be caused by the diabetes. Untreated diabetes or diabetes that is not properly managed can lead to heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, and nerve damage, so you’ll want to be sure to monitor your animal for any of the symptoms of those conditions.
Overall, diabetes in your older cat or dog is manageable with diet, exercise, medication, and proper veterinary care. Even with diabetes, your dog or cat can live out their golden years happily with a few adjustments to help keep them healthy.