By Sheila Fitzpatrick DVM

November is “National Diabetes Awareness Month” for pets. Diabetes can be diagnosed easily, and controlled, or perhaps cured, if you follow the right steps.

Diabetes means that your pet lacks insulin, an important chemical in your body which allows your pet to store the sugar that it eats. Treatment of diabetes involves administering insulin, as well as conforming your pet’s diet to meet the new metabolic requirements .

Do you know what to look for to see if your pet could potentially have diabetes?

1.  Sudden Weight Loss

Was your cat or dog very overweight and suddenly the weight has seemingly “fallen off”? With diabetes, the metabolism to keep up with the sudden inability to store sugar causes a rapid increase in metabolic rate, thus causing your pet to become thin.

Keeping track of your pet’s weight often will help you more closely monitor weight loss.

Weight loss can occur with many other diseases as well, so be sure to have your veterinarian run a blood chemistry and urinalysis to focus on the condition most likely causing the weight loss.

2. Increased Thirst       

Is your pet hovering over the water bowl? Do you notice you have to fill the water more frequently? These signs are not classic for just diabetes, but are a very good indicator that your pet does potentially have the disease and again, a blood chemistry and urinalyis should be performed as soon as possible.

3. Increased Hunger

If your pet is suddenly starving for more food, this is an indicator of an increase in metabolism associated with diabetes. Monitor daily how much your pet eats, and if you notice sudden ravenous appetite, it’s time to call your veterinarian .

4. Increase in Urination

Because diabetic pets commonly drink more water, you will see a much higher increase in the urine output. Many pets also develop urinary tract infections associated with the diabetes and will continually be urinating frequently and without control.

5. Obesity

Overweight pets are far more prone to diabetes due to the increased need for insulin.

6. Cloudy eyes

Diabetic pets can develop dangerous cataracts, which can lead to blindness. Sudden “grey” or “cloudy” eyes can be an indicator of diabetes and a reason for immediate concern for your pet’s health.

7. Thin/Dull hair coat

Any time you notice your pet’s hair coat is dull, flaky, falling out, or matted, there is reason for health concerns causing this. Because diabetics quickly dehydrate, a dry, flaky, dull coat can be common.

8. Weakness or Fatigue

Diabetes often times leads to muscle “wasting”, and generalized weakness. Cats especially can develop a diabetic neuropathy, where the back legs appear weak, wobbly and collapse. Again, muscle weakness can be a sign of many medical conditions, but it is something to surely monitor in your aging, overweight pets.

9. Depression

Diabetic pets can develop major lethargy and depression in response to the breakdown of fats and proteins in the liver due to the lack of insulin.  A condition called ketoacidosis can develop from this in the unregulated diabetics and lead to death.

10. Vomiting

Anytime a pet is vomiting, it is a sign of concern. Untreated/unregulated diabetics will often vomit due to the ketoacidosis as mentioned above. Though this is not the first sign of diabetes, it certainly should spark concern in pet owners to have their pet seen so that any underlying medical condition causing it can be diagnosed.

Now that you are aware of what to watch for in your pet for diabetes, perhaps these few signs will also make you more aware of what to watch for should your pet have any other medical conditions that are not currently diagnosed. Routine visits to the veterinarian are recommended yearly for pets under eight years of age, and every six months for your senior pets. Take charge of your pet’s health and stay on top of your regular trips to the vet!