Cats, dogs at increasing risk of diabetes — know the warning signs

WASHINGTON — Diabetes, which affects almost 10 percent of the American population, is an increasingly common condition among household pets in the United States, and it’s important to know the warning signs.

“There has been an 80 percent increase in dogs with diabetes over the past 10 years, and we’ve seen an 18 percent increase in our cats,” veterinarian Katy Nelson told WTOP.

Although the rise could be a result of better and easier diagnosis, Nelson said a lot of it has to do with pets’ weight.

“The same way that we’ve seem American humans’ waistlines increase dramatically over the past 20 years, we’ve seen the exact same phenomenon in our pets,” Nelson said. “Pet obesity has risen dramatically in the past 20 years, and along with that tends to go with diseases that are weight-related.”

She said one of the first signs of a dog or cat with diabetes is an increase in both water intake and the need to relieve themselves. Steady weight gain in cats could also be a sign of the disease, as well as either a dramatic weight gain or loss in dogs.

Luckily, diabetes is manageable, and owners can take steps to treat their pets. The first step, Nelson said, is to take the pet into the veterinarian for a blood test, or a full physical examination.

After the diagnosis, “talk to your veterinarian about at-home blood glucose monitoring, as well as at-home testing kits for urine for dogs and cats,” Nelson said. Pets could test high in glucose at the veterinarian’s office from stress, but have completely normal levels at home, she said.

Veterinarians can set up pet owners with various tools to monitor blood glucose levels, discuss the amount of insulin needed for pets and recommend changes for improved diet.

“Even a simple change in diet and weight loss can put diabetes in remission.”

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