When it comes to pet diabetes, the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” truly applies. In honor of National Pet Diabetes Month which occurs every November, we’re focusing on pet diabetes prevention tips to help pet parents stop or slow down the development of this disease in their dogs & cats.
Did You Know: Pet diabetes usually develops in dogs between 7-9 years.
But let’s start with the basics first:
Pet diabetes is a disease affecting people & pets alike. When people or pets have diabetes, it means that their bodies are not able to process blood sugars. There are 2 reasons why this occurs:
- Insufficient Insulin Production: Known as “type 1 diabetes,” this condition occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to move sugar from the blood into the cells so the individual cells are nourished. When the body does not have enough insulin to complete this process, then excess sugar stays in the blood.
- Insulin Resistance: Known as “type 2 diabetes,” this condition occurs when the pancreas is secreting plenty of insulin but the body doesn’t respond to the insulin. Again, this results in sugars that stay in the blood rather than transferring directly into cells to nourish them.
HOW TO PREVENT PET DIABETES
Some pets are going to develop pet diabetes no matter what you do (thanks, Genetics.) However, here are 6 tips that significantly help in keeping your pets from developing pet diabetes.
Maintain a Healthy Weight for your Pet: The number one tactic for helping to prevent pet diabetes in dogs & cats is to keep them at a healthy weight. For more information on dealing with pet obesity, see our October 2018 Pet Care Article on Pet Weight Management.
Buy Quality Pet Food: Low-quality pet foods are loaded with carbs that spike blood sugar levels and stress the pancreas. High-quality pet foods have more proteins. Read the labels on your current pet food & assess the protein content, and what other carbohydrates have been added as filler. If necessary, shift to a quality pet food with more protein & less carbs. However, keep in mind that too much protein in pet food can stress your pet’s kidneys. The optimal protein content for pet foods is 20-25%.
Don’t Overfeed Your Pets: It’s easy to overfeed pets, because they (and many humans) equate food with love. Work with your veterinarian to determine how much food your pet needs to maintain a healthy weight. Don’t forget to factor in other sources of food. For example, does your pet get a lot of treats or table scraps? Those calories can add up and help your pet pack on the pounds. The best practice is to determine how much pet food your dog or cat should receive, factoring in treats as well. Then MEASURE the food you serve them with a measuring cup (instead of guessing).
Offer Healthy Snacks: If your pet just has to have treats or gets hungry & starts barking or yowling for more food, offer up healthy snacks such as fresh fruits in limited quantity and/or fresh vegetables such as steamed broccoli.
Gradually Increase Exercise: By gradually increasing your pet’s exercise, you can help your pet burn more calories and prevent food’s conversion to fat. For dogs, this could mean an extra couple of blocks of walking per day, or scheduling play sessions with other dogs. For cats, this is as simple and providing an extra 10 minutes of rowdy play time with a toy.
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF PET DIABETES
It’s particularly important to get a handle on pet diabetes because of the wide range of serious health problems caused by this condition. Negative effects of pet diabetes include:
Prolonged high blood sugar levels can cause:
- Heart disease
- Nerve damage
- Kidney damage
- Serious skin infections
- Poor blood flow leading to amputations
Ketoacidosis (high acid content in bodily fluids & urine) can cause:
- Excessive fatigue
- Abdominal pain
Cataracts can cause:
- Permanent vision loss
HOW TO BUILD A PLAN TO PREVENT PET DIABETES
Step 1: The first step to preventing diabetes in your dog or cat is to get a simple blood test. This blood test will show if your pet is diabetic or pre-diabetic.
Step 2: Confer with your veterinarian about a game plan for getting your pet healthier. This may involve changes in food, portions, snack, exercise levels, number of times you feed your pet each day and more.
Think your dog or cat is showing signs of diabetes and want to know for sure? Email Mile High Animal Hospital, or call us at 303.693.6484 to schedule an exam and a blood test.