Diabetes can cause a host of symptoms in dogs and cats, but rest assured that affected pets can live long, happy and comfortable lives, especially when the disease is discovered early and treated consistently. Pet owners should monitor the onset of diabetes by keeping a close eye on their pets for the following signs:
Increased urination: Diabetes leads to an increase in blood glucose (sugar), which eventually leads to sugar in the urine, too. This causes the body to pull more water into the bladder, forcing pets to relieve themselves more often. Owners may notice their pets taking more frequent bathroom breaks, posturing longer than normal, spending more time in the litter box or having accidents in the house.
Increased drinking: Since diabetic pets lose more water through increased urination, they naturally become thirstier. You might notice your pet lapping up more water from their bowl or attempting to drink from the sink faucets. Ensure your pet always has plenty of fresh water to drink—even if you think they’ve had enough—to prevent dehydration.
Increased appetite: Diabetic pets may gobble their meals quicker than usual or spend more time begging for food. This is due to a faulty glucose delivery system that deprives their body of the energy glucose provides, creating an increase in appetite.
Weight loss: Curiously, most diabetic pets with ravenous appetites will actually lose weight. The energy they consume in their food isn’t transported properly in the body, causing the organs and muscles to starve, leading to weight loss. Since many diabetic pets are overweight, losing a few pounds may be mistaken as a positive sign. But since unexpected weight loss is a hallmark sign of diabetes, it should not be taken lightly. Weigh your pet periodically, noting any abnormal trends over time.
Low energy: Most of us know what it’s like to feel sluggish when we skip a snack or a meal. Since diabetic pets aren’t able to get energy from their food, many of them have low energy levels, even if they have a full belly. If your dog or cat doesn’t have energy like they used to, it might be time for a check-up.
As diabetes progresses, other symptoms may become evident, such as cloudy eyes (cataracts), vision loss or chronic urinary or skin infections.
Occasionally, pets with diabetes can develop a sudden illness with few of the signs listed above. If your pet has sudden weakness, lethargy, vomiting and is not able to drink, please see your veterinarian immediately.
Pets that are overweight, obese or have other risk factors for diabetes should be monitored closely for signs of diabetes. Keep in mind that diagnosing and treating diabetes in pets requires a consultation with your veterinarian. If you are concerned your pet may have diabetes, contact your VCA veterinarian as soon as possible.