How Do Pets Get Diabetes?

When you think of diabetes, you might not think that your dog or cat is at risk, but our pets can suffer from diabetes just like people. But how well do you understand this disease and the risk factors your pet has of developing it?

What is Diabetes?

 Diabetes in cats and dogs results from their bodies not producing enough insulin or not being able to properly respond to the insulin their bodies do make. The lack of insulin and/or the inability to effectively use insulin leads to a spike in glucose (or sugar) in the blood.

In other words, the sugar would normally be turned into energy, but the lack of insulin makes the sugar unusable, which leaves a surplus of sugar in the body.

Diabetes in Cats Vs. Dogs

Dogs and Diabetes

Dogs are more likely to suffer from Type I diabetes. This occurs when their pancreas cannot produce insulin. This means the body cannot properly digest or use energy from food that the dog eats. Once pets develop Type I diabetes, they will always be diabetic.

Cats and Diabetes

Our feline friends suffer from Type II diabetes more often than dogs. This form of diabetes the pancreas functions properly and produces insulin, but the cells do not react to it as they should. This form of diabetes can be reversed if your cat or dog improves her body condition and sheds some extra pounds.

What Causes Diabetes in Pets?

Diabetes is a complicated disease, and there isn’t only one cause of diabetes in pets. Some breeds of dogs and cats are genetically predisposed to becoming diabetic while others are not. 

If the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas fail or get damaged or destroyed, the result is Type I diabetes. The destruction of the cells is permanent, which is why there is no cure for Type I diabetes.

What causes pancreas cells to die? Pancreatitis and genetics.

Type II diabetes develops from being overweight or obese. The extra weight turns normal cells into insulin-resistant cells. 

What Pets Have a Higher Risk for Developing Diabetes?

Dogs develop diabetes more frequently than cats. About 1% of dogs will become diabetic and the older they get, the more likely they are to develop this disease. About 1 in 500 cats is diagnosed as diabetic.

While there are some pet groups that are more likely to get diabetes, pets of all ages, genders, and sizes can develop it.

Higher-Risk Pets

  • Older cats and dogs
  • Male cats
  • Unspayed female dogs are twice as likely to get diabetes
  • Inactive pets
  • Pets that experience pancreatitis
  • Pets with hyperthyroidism

Common Dog Breeds with a Genetic Predisposition to Develop Diabetes

  • Dachshunds
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Pomeranians
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Toy Poodles
  • Terriers
  • German Shepherd Dogs

What Can You Do to Prevent Diabetes?

Keeping your dog or cat active and at a reasonable weight is the first step to providing them with the guidance they need to avoid developing diabetes. This means feeding your pet the right portions of a proper diet and keeping them physically engaged with exercise and play.

Make sure your cat has a high protein diet, low in carbs. Dogs do best with quality proteins, complex carbs, and fiber.

If you have any questions about how you should feed your cat, dog, or other pet, what kind of food and how much, or any other concerns, please make an appointment. When it comes to diabetes, don’t put your pet at risk.  Like most illnesses, avoidance is best, but early detection lessens the severity of symptoms, the toll on the body, and improves both the length and quality of your pet’s life. If you suspect your pet may be diabetic, bring her in and we’ll happily diagnose her and set her on the path to improved health.



Image credit: Rodrigo Souza | Pexels

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