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The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), has developed guidelines for veterinarians in the diagnosis, management and treatment of diabetes in both dogs and cats. Type II diabetes, also referred to as adult-onset diabetes, is a rapidly growing problem among people and pets in the U.S.
Nearly a million and a half dogs and cats suffer from the disease, and as pet obesity rates increase, so will the incidence of diabetes.
The disease most often occurs in dogs and cats at middle age or in their senior years, and is a result of diet and other lifestyle-related causes. Diabetes can occur in young animals, but it’s more often genetic than lifestyle induced when it does. When insulin is in either insufficient supply or is being misused, the brain suffers a sugar shortage. A diabetic dog or cat will normally have either the uncomplicated form of the disease, or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). The triggering mechanism of diabetes mellitus in both dogs and cats is loss or dysfunction of the cells of the pancreas.
Cell loss tends to progress much faster in dogs than in cats and is usually due to immune-mediated destruction, vacuolar degeneration (the formation of vacuoles or cavities in cells) or pancreatitis. In cats, pancreatic cell loss or dysfunction is the result of insulin resistance, islet amyloidosis (a condition in which the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas become clogged with amyloid deposits), or a specific type of chronic pancreatitis.
As you can probably imagine, treatment of diabetes in a family pet is quite involved and time consuming.
Just as is the case for people with the disease, managing diabetes in your dog or cat involves regular monitoring of blood glucose levels, making necessary dietary adjustments, giving insulin injections or oral medications, and keeping a constant close eye on your pet to supervise his condition. Frequent veterinary visits are the norm, as are costs associated with checkups, tests, medical procedures and insulin therapy. As an integrative wellness veterinarian, my primary interest lies in preventing diseases like diabetes through proactive management of your pet’s health. Nutrition and exercise are two of the three most important determining factors for whether your beloved pet will be at risk for diabetes.
Pets become overweight through a combination of an inappropriate diet, lack of portion control, and not enough calorie-burning physical activity. Your carnivorous dog or cat should be eating a moisture-rich, species-appropriate diet consisting primarily of human-grade protein sources, healthy fats, and nutritional supplements.
Dogs and cats have no biological requirement for grains or most other carbs, and they certainly don’t need the sugar or other additives and preservatives that are also in most processed pet foods.
Many family pets are not only being fed the wrong types of nutrition, they’re also eating way too much of it.
Dogs and cats also need regular physical exertion on a daily basis to keep their bodies toned and strong and to help maintain a healthy weight.
If you are owned by a cat, it can be challenging to get her to be physically active if she isn’t interested, but with some creativity it can be done. Evidence continues to emerge linking autoimmune disorders to Type II diabetes, especially in dogs. Autoimmune diseases are caused by overstimulation of the immune system, and this process can happen to pets through repeated unnecessary vaccinations. Over-vaccinating can lead to a hyper stimulated immune system, which can lead to immune-mediated diseases like diabetes.
Each time your fully immunized pet receives another round of the same vaccines, it increases the risk of sending his immune system into overdrive.
I recommend you find a holistic veterinarian if you don’t already see one, and ask for titers to be run. The best way to treat diabetes in your four-legged family member is to prevent it in the first place – especially since the vast majority of diabetes in dogs and cats is lifestyle induced.
Once the disease has taken hold of your pet’s health, it can be a very long, difficult and painful journey for both you and your beloved dog or cat. When there’s a shortage of insulin or a condition of IR, dietary sugar builds up in the bloodstream and eventually leaks into the urine.
Carbs break down into sugar, and sugar stresses the pancreas, forcing it to produce more insulin to balance the increase in blood sugar. Throw in a handful of daily treats, and there’s a good chance your dog or cat is consuming too many calories on a daily basis. Work with your kitty’s natural tendencies and involve her in games that appeal to her hunter and predator instincts. Titers are tests that measure your pet’s functional antibody response to previous immunizations. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, contact, creation and information intact, without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format. But even with increased food intake, a diabetic dog or cat will often lose weight because their body isn’t using calories efficiently. The results of these tests will tell you whether re-vaccination is necessary, and for which specific diseases.

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