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Pet diabetes is not a death sentence.


Globally, and in South Africa, pet diabetes is on the rise, and pet owners are looking for health management plans to keep their fur babies happy, healthy and living longer lives.

“It’s so important for pet owners to understand that diabetes is not a death sentence for their pet,” says Tarryn Dent, Diagnostic and Technical Manager at Zoetis South Africa, a global animal health company.

“We’ve found that a lack of awareness can either lead to a missed diagnosis because pet owners don’t know what to look for or, if a pet is diagnosed with diabetes, many owners think that there is nothing left for them to do when the reverse is true. With consistent management, diabetes should have a minimal impact on pet owners and their pets’ daily routines.”

This management includes at-home blood glucose monitoring, insulin, diet and an exercise plan, through which every pet can live an active and happy life with diabetes.

Proactive health management

Type I and Type II diabetes in pets is more common than many pet owners think. Indications that could point to pet diabetes include unexplained fatigue or weakness, excessive thirst, frequent urination, an increased appetite and sudden weight loss.

“Pet owners who recognise any of these signs should ask their veterinarian to check for diabetes,” says Dent. “It’s a simple blood or urine test, and then a management plan can be put in place.”

Dent has long advocated for proactive diagnostics for pets, and diabetes screening is a perfect example of how beneficial diagnostics can be for pet owners whose pets are members of the family.

“Annual screenings can track if there have been any changes, particularly in insulin and glucose levels. The sooner an issue is picked up, the sooner it can be managed.”

Home screening is another option for pet owners who know that their pets experience elevated levels of stress at the vet or outside their normal routines, as stress can cause non-routine blood spikes in sugar levels.

4 simple steps to managing pet diabetes

The goal of any diabetes treatment is to control the amount of glucose in a cat or dog’s blood, which will reduce symptoms and help minimise or prevent complications.

Each diabetes plan is personalised to the pet and its owner and could include all or some of these protocols:

1. Insulin injections

Insulin dosing involves giving a pet a small insulin injection based on a specific dose and schedule. The injection is painless but it’s important to keep track of the time and amount of insulin that a pet receives.

2. Diet

Diets that eliminate or reduce sugar surges are usually preferred and can help pets lead long and healthy lives. Any changes in diet should be monitored, however, and the amount of food and water consumed should be tracked, as this will help a veterinarian determine if the diet is having a positive impact on an animal’s diabetes.

3. Exercise

Consistency in a pet’s daily exercise schedule is critical for diabetes management. If daily activity levels vary, an animal may require different amounts of insulin. Weekly weight checks can also monitor a pet’s health.

4. Blood glucose monitoring

Monitoring a diabetic pet’s blood glucose gives veterinarians the data they need to better manage a diabetes treatment plan. Typically, a veterinarian will either need to take several readings over a specified time frame, or a pet owner can take the readings at home using an at-home glucose monitor. Although it may initially appear daunting to a pet owner to be monitoring their pet’s glucose levels at home, there are benefits to this. Stress, and changes in an animal’s eating regime can have significant effects on glucose levels. Home testing allows veterinarians to get a complete picture of the pet’s glucose in their natural environment, eliminating the effects of being in hospital.

Fortunately, there are animal-specific, accurate and, most importantly, easy-to-use glucometers available that require a very small sample size to help pet owners easily do at-home testing for their diabetic animals.

Getting the most accurate representation of an animal’s glucose throughout the day allows a veterinarian to put the best management plan in place, which helps to minimise or avoid emergency room expenses and long-term diabetes complications.

A long, healthy life

According to Dent, with consistent management, diabetes should have minimal impact on the daily lives and routines of pets and their owners. “Veterinarians work closely with pet owners to ensure the health and wellness of their pets, and there are a range of diagnostic tools to support them. Diabetes is thankfully completely manageable, and pets with Type I and Type II diabetes can live long and happy lives.”


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