By Dean Vickers, Director of Animal Welfare Studies and Education at PetSafe
We all want to make certain that our pets live as healthy of a life as possible. It is part of being a responsible pet owner. In addition to serving quality food, exercise, dental care, and grooming, you will need to find a veterinarian you trust. Don’t be afraid to interview veterinarians just as you interview physicians for yourself and your family. Quality veterinary care sets the foundation for your dog’s overall health.
Ideally, routine wellness evaluations should be performed by your vet at least once a year. Young puppies and senior dogs should be seen on a more regular basis, which could be more than once a year. If your dog has a chronic health conditions, special needs or other illnesses, make certain that you follow through with your vet’s recommendations.
Remember, pets age faster than we do. Six months is a long time for your dog. Many subtle changes can develop during a very short period of time. These regular visits allow your vet to monitor changes in your pet’s health and will allow for more early diagnosis. Communicate respectfully with your vet, and you can expect the same in return. Developing a good relationship with your vet can lead to long-term benefits for you and your dog.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. We often worry about the side effects for ourselves and other human friends, but you may not think about this disease affecting your pet. Over 1.4 million pets in the United States suffer from diabetes mellitus, a condition where the blood sugar (glucose) is too high. According to statistics, one in every 500 dogs and one in every 200 cats develop diabetes.
Some breeds appear to be more genetically impacted by the disease: toy poodles, schnauzers, samoyeds and burmese cats top the list. Despite these breeds being more prone, the rate of diabetes among all cats and dogs in this country and across the world is increasing at an alarming rate. Other possible risk factors include obesity, an unhealthy diet, cortisone treatments, stress and shock. Genetics may also play a role.
What Is Diabetes?
In the most basic simplification, diabetes is a disease of the pancreas that affects the body's ability to control its blood sugar levels. The pancreas is responsible for producing a hormone called insulin which keeps blood sugar levels balanced. Diabetes is the shortage or improper utilization of glucose in your pet’s body. Your pet’s body either reduced production of insulin or isn’t using the insulin efficiently.
Insulin resistance is the most common. Insulin is the anabolic hormone that moves sugar, fatty acids, electrolytes and amino acids into the cells throughout your pet’s body. A lack of insulin will result in these vital substances to remain outside of the cells, thus causing the cells to starve to death. What are the warning signs?
- Urinates more frequently.
- Excessive thirst and drinks more often.
- Weight loss.
- Lethargic and naps more than usual.
Fortunately, diabetes is treatable in pets. It can be managed successfully with insulin therapy and attention to diet and exercise. Effective diabetes treatment of pets will restore the quality of life of dogs and cats with diabetes mellitus. Your pet will need consistent administration of medication, consistent feeding, and a stable lifestyle. Changing your pet’s diet will be a key factor in maintaining a healthy pet. For cats, a diet higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates seems to be of benefit. For dogs, diets high in fiber are preferred because they are generally lower in sugar and slower to be digested. Additionally, the fiber may help stimulate insulin secretion in Type II diabetes.
Your pet’s feeding cycle is also important. Being consistent is paramount to maintaining your pet’s health. Because our pets cannot speak in words, we must rely on the signs they give us when it comes to analyzing their health. Your pet may exhibit a variety of signs that indicate a health problem, but just as in humans, not all signs are cause for alarm. Learn what to watch for and how to act appropriately before the illness becomes out of control. If your dog is displaying signs of illness, contact your vet right away. For more information of canine and feline diabetes, consult with your veterinarian about more detailed treatments, symptoms and warning signs.
As Director of Animal Welfare Studies and Education, Dean provides education on the proper use and benefits of PetSafe products to legislators and pet owners worldwide. Spending most of his career in advocacy, the former Ohio State Director for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has assisted with animal abuse and neglect cases, as well as assisted with rescue during natural disasters, animal hoarding, and large scale animal abuse cases. He is a graduate from The Ohio State University with a degree in History and Political science. He currently lives in Knoxville with his 3 rescue dogs, Annikka, J’Maul and Isabella.