Managing diabetes in pets

Diabetes in pets is more common than you think, but it doesn’t need to be as scary as it sounds. With the right knowledge one can confidently manage the illness and ensure a full, healthy life for your pet.

Diabetes occurs when cells in the body don’t absorb enough glucose from blood. Cells become starved and the body’s blood becomes overloaded with sugar, causing damage to associated organs. While there are three types of diabetes, most will tell you that dogs, for example, only get type 1 diabetes. The reality however is much more complicated as the strains of diabetes found in pets differ from those found in humans, so it’s always important to have a knowledgeable veterinarian explain the illness to you.

The first step in managing diabetes is spotting it. Like humans, pets display symptoms such as lethargy, excessive thirst and frequent urination. If your pet is showing these signs consult a vet immediately for a professional diagnosis and prescription.  Your vet can help you decide on a device for monitoring blood glucose levels, show you how to correctly administer insulin injections if these are required, as well as explain the importance of timing when administering medication. It’s best to work out a schedule that works for both you and your pet to ensure blood sugar levels are maintained between meals and taking medicine.

Next, one needs to consider your pet’s diet – it plays a crucial role in preventing and managing diabetes. Most vets will agree that a diet low in fat and high in protein and fiber is best.  The main reason for high fiber is that it slows digestion and absorption, causing your pet to feel fuller quicker and presumably eat less while slowing glucose formation and entry into the bloodstream. It’s important to remember though, that a diet high in fiber must be met with sufficient water intake as it can absorb a significant amount from the body. Ultimately your pet’s diet should be served at regular intervals, to facilitate healthy weight and be thoroughly nutritious. Choosing a brand that is a member of the PFI (Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa) means you will be feeding a food that has been manufactured according to international standards, with your pet’s health as the primary focus – and when dealing with a pet with diabetes nothing is more important.

Exercise is critical for all pets, though never more so than for a diabetic pet, as a healthy weight and heart helps keep blood sugar low. Try to exercise your pet at the same time every day and at the same intensity, as sudden rigorous or strenuous exercise could cause a diabetic pet’s blood sugar levels to drop too low, counter acting all of your management efforts.

At first, managing your pet’s diabetes might seem overwhelming, but with time, and the correct medical support, treatment is very manageable and you and your pet will adjust to a new routine, strengthening the bond that you share and ensuring they have a full, happy life.

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