November is National Pet Diabetes Month, and with an estimated one in 300 dogs and one in 200 cats developing the disease during their lifetime, it’s important for pet owners to recognize the risk factors and signs.
What factors put my pet at risk for developing diabetes?
While any pet can develop diabetes—even young pets—some conditions may predispose your cat or dog to develop this disorder. Potential risk factors for diabetes development in pets include:
- Age — Although diabetes can appear at any age, it mainly occurs in middle-aged to senior pets. Dogs are generally 7 to 10 years of age at diagnosis, while most cats are older than 6.
- Gender — Unspayed female dogs are twice as likely as male dogs to have diabetes.
- Chronic or repeated pancreatitis — Chronic or repeated pancreatitis eventually can cause such significant damage to the pancreas that diabetes can develop. In addition, chronic pancreatitis can make diabetes management more challenging.
- Obesity — Obesity contributes to insulin resistance and is also a risk factor for pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes. A pet who develops diabetes often quickly loses a substantial amount of weight.
- Steroid medications — Long-term use of steroid medications, such as prednisone, can cause diabetes.
- Cushing’s disease — Cushing’s disease causes the body to overproduce natural steroids and, if left unregulated or poorly controlled, can lead to diabetes.
- Certain health conditions — Certain autoimmune disorders and viral diseases are thought to possibly trigger diabetes.
- Genetics — Diabetes can occur in any breed or mixed-breed, but it seems that genetics can play a role in development. Among purebred pets, breeds vary in susceptibility. Pets who have a higher risk of diabetes development include:
- Miniature poodles
- Bichon frises
- Miniature schnauzers
- Fox terriers
- Cairn terriers
Purebred Siamese, Burmese, and Maine Coon cats also are at an increased risk.
What signs might my pet show if they develop diabetes?
If your pet develops diabetes, regardless of whether they have an increased risk, they may exhibit the following signs:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Cloudy eyes in dogs
- Hind leg weakness in cats
- Chronic or recurring infections