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November: National Pet Diabetes Month

Reviewed by Dr. Peter Kintzer, DVM, DACVIM on Friday, August 28, 2015
Posted November 21, 2013 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

For more from Dr. Justine Lee, find her at www.drjustinelee.com or on Facebook!

Senior dog

Did you know that 1 in every 200 cats may be affected by diabetes mellitus (DM)?

November is National Diabetes Month, and while this month was originally designed to increase awareness of this common endocrine disease in humans, we need to be aware of the growing prevalence of DM in dogs and cats also. Untreated, diabetes mellitus can be fatal in dogs and cats.

In veterinary medicine, there are two types of diabetes mellitus: Type I DM and Type II DM. 

Type I DM is when the body doesn’t make enough insulin (which is a hormone that is normally produced from the pancreas), and requires life-long insulin therapy (delivered via a syringe twice a day). This is most commonly seen in dogs – in other words, once a dog becomes a diabetic, he or she is diabetic for life.

Type II DM is when the body has some insulin being produced from the pancreas, but it is an inadequate amount or something is interfering with its ability to be used by the body. This is most commonly seen in cats and can be transient. In other words, if your cat has recently been diagnosed with Type II DM, he or she may only need insulin injections (via a syringe twice a day) for a few to several months, not necessarily for life.

Clinical signs of diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Inappropriate urination
  • Weight loss (most commonly over the back), despite an overweight body condition
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased “whiteness” of the lens of the eye due to cataracts
  • Blindness
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Poor skin condition (like excessive dandruff or an oily hair coat)

Certain breeds are more predisposed to DM. In cats, breeds such as Siamese are over-represented. In dogs, breeds such as the Samoyed, Keeshond, miniature pinscherCairn terrierSchnauzer, Australian terrier, dachshundpoodleBeagle, and Bichon Frise are over-presented.  In dogs, the female sex seems to be more likely to develop DM, with the disease being seen twice as frequently in female than in male dogs. In cats, males are over-represented. DM is typically seen in older pets – typically from 7-9 years of age in dogs, and 8-13 years of age in cats. While juvenile (young) diabetes mellitus can also occur, this

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.