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Diabetes and your pet

Jennifer Hennessey, DVM, CVJ

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month! What a great time to learn about this serious disease and evaluate your pet’s health. Diabetes is a growing epidemic for humans as well as a commonly diagnosed disease in our dogs and cats.

Risk factors for developing diabetes include obesity, genetic background, and a history of pancreatic illness. Most dogs and cats are middle aged (>4 years old) at the time of diagnosis. Female dogs are twice as likely to develop the disease as male dogs.

Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, and a dull hair coat. If your pet develops any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian to schedule a visit for your furry friend. Diabetes can be diagnosed by simple testing including a blood sugar check and urine evaluation.

Management of diabetes varies based on the individual pet, but traditionally consists of diet control, exercise and insulin therapy. Cats can sometimes be managed by diet and weight loss alone, without the use of insulin.

If your pet is diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to understand that diabetes can be successfully managed though is a fulltime commitment. You and your veterinarian must work together as a team to properly control diabetes. Complications and setbacks can happen during the course of treatment. Your veterinarian will be experienced in handling the care of the diabetic pet and can also consult with local specialists or consult groups such as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) for current treatment guidelines.

Diabetic dogs and cats can lead long, quality lives with diligent monitoring and management. Talk with your veterinarian today about your pet’s chances of diabetes. Early diagnosis is the key to treatment and can help your four-legged family member live a long, happy life. For more information on diabetes, visit

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