The Alabama Veterinary Medical Association wants to remind pet owners that dogs and cats can develop diabetes. November is National Pet Diabetes Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about the risk of diabetes in our furry friends. Diabetes in pets is treatable, but diagnosis is key to ensuring your pet will live a long, healthy life.

Diabetes is an inability to detect and regulate glucose. This is typically caused by the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or to produce enough insulin (Type 2 diabetes), resulting in higher than normal blood-sugar levels.

Pet diabetes is becoming more prevalent as we see a rise in pet obesity,” said Hal Pate, past president of ALVMA and doctor of veterinary medicine. "If you notice any of the symptoms below, you should consult with your veterinarian immediately.”

Symptoms of diabetes in pets may include excessive eating, drinking or urinating; unexplained weight loss; persistent urinary tract infections; or cataracts. The disease affects the liver, eyes and kidneys.

In dogs, the disease appears to be more common in middle-aged or older pets, especially females, but it may also appear in younger pets. Certain dog breeds experience above-average rates of diabetes, including toy poodles, terriers, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, doberman pinschers, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers.

In cats, diabetes is more common in middle-aged or older animals and in cats that are overweight. Neutered males are at a greater risk than females.

Almost all dogs diagnosed with diabetes develop Type 1 diabetes, while cats almost always develop Type 2 diabetes. Like dogs, overweight cats and cats taking steroids are more likely to develop diabetes. Diabetic dogs will almost always need to be on insulin for the rest of their lives, but some cats can have their diabetes controlled and even reversed by good glucose control and proper diet.

When diabetes is left untreated, a condition called diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA) can develop. Although it is life-threatening, it can be controlled if you seek veterinary attention and treat the symptoms. Diabetic pets are managed with injectable insulin, a good consistent diet, proper exercise and weight loss. Diabetes is not and should not be a death sentence for your pet. With proper training and consistent attention, you can help your pet live a long and wonderful life.

Pets and the People Who Love Them is brought to you by your friends at the Athens-Limestone Animal Shelter. To adopt a dog or cat, come to the shelter at 1701 U.S. 72 (behind Limestone Veterinary Clinic,) visit our Facebook page or call us at 256-771-7889.

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