(Welcome to the weekly pet column of Pet Connection Programs Inc. of Marilla, N.Y. A new article is posted each week, so be sure to check back on a regular basis!)
Chances are good that you know someone who has diabetes. However, you may not realize this disease that commonly affects humans is on the rise among dogs and cats. Like humans, a diagnosis of diabetes requires lifestyle changes and heightened health monitoring, yet with proper care, your pet can live a full and active life.
During a recent four-year study, Banfield hospitals have seen a 32 percent jump in cases of canine diabetes and a 16 percent increase in feline diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body cannot process glucose (sugar) into cells, resulting in too much glucose in the blood and not enough glucose in the cells for energy.
Untreated, diabetes can be fatal in dogs and cats, but veterinary care and at-home blood glucose monitoring can help you manage the disease in your four-legged friends.
The first step is identifying warning signs of diabetes in your pet. Certain risk factors may increase the chances of your pet getting diabetes. In both dogs and cats, these include age, obesity and breeds with a genetic predisposition.
Signs of diabetes in pets are often very similar to those in humans and include fatigue or weakness, increased hunger, weight loss, increased thirst and increased urination. If you observe one or more of these signs, consult with your veterinarian to determine the cause.
If your veterinarian diagnoses diabetes, they will create a management plan that addresses your pet’s dietary and dental care needs. The plan also will call for monitoring blood glucose levels and often include a prescription for insulin.
Diet and exercise
Diabetic pets are usually prescribed diets that minimize blood sugar spikes. For diabetic dogs, diets high in fiber are typical because they are lower in carbohydrates — the source of sugar — and take longer to digest. For diabetic cats, your veterinarian may recommend a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
Exercise and physical activity are also important when managing diabetic pets. In general, physical activity and exercise lower blood glucose levels. This is why consistency in your pet’s daily exercise schedule is important.
The goal of pet diabetes management is to make pets feel better by controlling glucose levels and minimizing the risk of complications. Monitoring of blood glucose is one way to assess the diabetes management plan. While veterinarians can test at the office, research shows both biological and psychosocial benefits of using at-home blood glucose monitoring systems. Monitoring blood glucose at home helps you follow your veterinarian’s prescribed management plan while eliminating the pet’s stress over frequent veterinarian visits.
At-home monitoring systems for pets are very different than at-home monitoring systems for humans and should not be used interchangeably. You actually can use the same at-home monitoring systems that your veterinarian uses, such as AlphaTRAK, which is available through your veterinarian. Specifically calibrated for dogs and cats, it is easy to use and priced affordably to make at-home monitoring convenient and economical.
Once you have a prescribed plan in place, you should meet with your veterinarian three to four times a year for him/her to adjust the plan as needed to keep your pet comfortable.
Successful diabetes management is achieved through compliance with your pet’s prescribed plan, at-home blood glucose monitoring and consistent communication and follow-up appointments with your veterinarian. Visit AlphaTRAKmeter.com to learn more about diabetes management..
— Family Features
(For more information on pets and animal adoption, please visit www.petconnectionprogramsinc.com. Or, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PetConnectionProgramsinc. Located in Marilla, N.Y., Pet Connection Programs Inc. is a nonprofit maternity and special care shelter founded in 1984.)