Increased urination and thirst. These two signs are hallmarks of a diabetic condition, so you’ll want to watch closely for them, especially as your pet ages.
Unfortunately, increased thirst and urine output are also signs of other serious health problems, so regardless of the age or condition of your dog or cat, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian (and bring a urine sample) if you notice these symptoms.
Increased appetite. Your pet might grow hungrier over time because the amino acids and glucose needed inside the cells aren’t getting there, or aren’t being used appropriately.
Weight loss. When the cells of your pet’s body are being starved of essential nutrients, the result is often an increase in appetite. But because the energy from food is not being used efficiently by the body’s cells, your pet can lose weight even though he’s taking in more calories.
Lack of energy and increased need for sleep. When the cells of your pet’s body are deprived of blood sugar, he’s apt to show a general lack of desire to run, take a walk with you, or engage in play.
Urinary tract infections. It’s not at all uncommon for diabetic dogs and cats to acquire secondary urinary tract infections. This happens because the more sugar there is in the urine, the greater the likelihood that bacteria will grow in your pet’s bladder.
Vision problems. Another symptom of diabetes in companion animals is blindness, which is seen primarily in dogs, but cats can also develop blindness as a result of diabetic cataracts.
Weakness in rear limbs (cats only). This symptom is unique to cats with diabetes. It’s called the plantigrade stance. Instead of walking high up on the pads of his feet, which is how cats normally walk, a cat with plantigrade stance will drop his hind quarters low and actually walk on his back ankles. Fortunately, this symptom can be reversed once your kitty’s diabetes is under control.
Kidney failure. Kidney failure, especially in cats, is also a common secondary symptom of diabetes. Often the first diagnosis for a diabetic kitty is chronic renal insufficiency or acute kidney problems. The sugar that is meant to be retained in your pet’s bloodstream spills over into the urine and is very damaging to the kidneys.
Risk factors for diabetes in dogs
Age. The older the dog the more likely they are to be diagnosed with diabetes. On average, dogs are diagnosed between the ages of 8 and 12, but are occasionally diagnosed at a much younger age.
Gender. Female dogs have diabetes at almost twice the rate of males.
Breed. Although any breed of dog may get diabetes, several studies indicate that some breeds tend to be diagnosed with diabetes more often, which may point to a genetic predisposition to the disease. The breeds that are at higher risk include:
- Cairn Terrier
- Schnauzer (miniature and standard)
By the time you notice that your pet’s eating habits have changed, that they are drinking excessive water, or even vomiting, your pet may already be losing weight and getting lethargic. Because diabetes can be controlled more easily with an early diagnosis, it is important to go to a veterinarian as soon as you notice these symptoms.
The longer symptoms persist without a diagnosis, the more the blood glucose level increases and damage can occur in the bladder, kidneys, liver and eyes. Dogs with diabetes can also have a decreased resistance to bacterial infections.