Diabetes in Older Pets

Diabetes is more common in older pets, but it can also occur in younger or pregnant pets. The disease is more manageable if it is detected early and managed with the help of your veterinarian. The good news is that with proper monitoring, treatment, and diet and exercise, diabetic pets can lead long and happy lives.

Diabetes in dogs and cats can occur at any age. However, diabetic dogs are usually 4-14 years of age and most are diagnosed at roughly 7-10 years of age.  Most diabetic cats are older than 6 years of age.  Diabetes occurs in female dogs twice as often as male dogs. Certain breeds of dogs may be predisposed to diabetes.

Noticing the early signs of diabetes is the most important step in taking care of your pet. If you see any of the following signs, your pet should be examined by a veterinarian. The earlier the diagnosis, the better chance your pet may have for a longer and healthier life.

  • Excessive water drinking and increased urination
  • Weight loss, even though there may be an increased appetite
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cloudy eyes (especially in dogs)
  • Chronic or recurring infections (including skin infections and urinary infections)

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your veterinarian will prescribe an initial dose and type of insulin for your pet. Insulin cannot be given orally – it must be given by injection under the skin. Your veterinarian or veterinary technician will teach you how to give the insulin injections, which involve a very small needle and are generally very well tolerated by the pet. It is not a one-size-fits-all treatment, your veterinarian may periodically need to adjust your pet’s treatment regimen based on the results of monitoring.  Dietary recommendations are an important part of treatment.

Successful treatment of diabetes requires regular examinations, blood and urine tests, and monitoring your pet’s weight, appetite, drinking and urination.

It is very important to maintain the proper insulin and feeding schedules recommended for your pet. It is also very important that your pet maintains a normal appetite while on insulin therapy, or you risk hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if your pet is not eating and absorbing enough sugars to balance the insulin’s effect of removing the sugars from the bloodstream. You will also need to regularly check your pet’s blood and urine sugar levels. Regular examinations and testing performed by your veterinarian may be supplemented by at-home monitoring of your pet’s blood and urine glucose levels at home.

Because older dogs and cats are more likely to develop age-related diseases or conditions, some of which could be confused with diabetes, regular examinations by a veterinarian can keep your pet healthy and detect problems before they become severe.

Diabetic dogs and cats can live long and healthy lives with proper management and veterinary care. If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior or weight, consult your veterinarian.