Friday, March 7, 2008

Diabetes: a growing epidemic with animals?

It’s a known fact that a pet can bring happiness into your life. Of course, as the soft music plays in your head and the visions of you and Fido running together on the beach wrestling a large stick loops over and over we tend to forget about the day to day challenges and costs of pet keeping.

An avid animal lover I tend to overlook the work involved in having my three dachshunds, 55 gallon aquarium with delicate fish, and a bunny named chuck that my daughter promised she would take care of all by herself. Having all these pets does take time and requires a lot of patience and a part time job to cover their expenses. But every little tail wag or lick on the cheek, a sniff of the bunny’s nose and even when the fish greet me at the front of the tank makes it all worthwhile.

Having animals and also having three children, I feel that I can compare the two and comment that on many occasions as my teenager is arguing with me or my adolescents are bickering I look to my husband and say, had we known we could of just stuck with the dogs. Of course, my humor and sarcasm helps me get through trying times. I can’t imagine my life or my house without it being full of the happiness a large family gives me. Yes, I am including my pets as part of our family. They are really, wouldn’t you agree? According to an August 6, 2007 report with Business Week “$41 Billion a year is spent on furry friends.”

I am one that spends plenty on my pets. All three of my dachshunds have life jackets for when we go boating. They all have light weight t-shirts for cool weather and heavy faux suede coats for the cold weather. Toys are a large part of the pet budget. They all get dental checkups and of course all their vaccinations. Flea control and monthly heartworm prevention tip the top of the expense reports as well. Not excluding the aquarium and all the filtration charcoal, replacements and chemicals. Plants and feeder fish as well as new decorations to make their home eye pleasing to the humans. Then we have the bunny and his abode. He needs things to chew and all of his hay and food and toys. My daughter even has a little outfit for him so that she can take him on a leash around the yard. The amount of money we spend on our pets can get out of control if we don’t watch our budget.

Dog reports that “The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association predicts the pet industry will grow by 5.5 percent this year.” Now pet insurance is becoming another priority with of pet keeping. Is that feasible? With the cost of care rising and having animals that need a great deal of medical treatment, having insurance would be something to consider.

“One in every 400-500 dogs and cats is being diagnosed with diabetes” according to and websites. This is a staggering estimate; it’s now rearing its ugly head in the pet world as well.

With diabetes becoming more prevalent among Americans these days it’s no wonder diabetes is becoming a problem with animals.

What is diabetes mellitus you ask? This is a disease where one is unable to regulate their blood glucose levels properly. Regardless of your species, human and dog and cat we all have the same process with food entering our bodies and then either working properly to burn into energy or some sort of dysfunction causing us to have elevated blood glucose levels.

The pancreas secretes insulin to help regulate glucose that your body uses in its cells. When cells don’t utilize the glucose properly then there remains excess in the blood stream. The pancreas either does not produce enough insulin to work with the cells, that would be type one diabetes, or the cells are resistant to the insulin and there remains more glucose then the body can burn, that would be type two diabetes.

"Most dogs will be diagnosed with type two diabetes and are usually diagnosed between the ages of 7 and 9 and are over weight. Unspayed female dogs are more at risk for diabetes as well as certain breeds having a genetic predisposition to it such as Keeshond, puli, miniature pinscher, cairn terrier. With dachshunds, poodle, miniature schnauzer, and beagle being at a higher risk." This information sourced from

How do you know if your pet has diabetes? You can watch for signs such as excessive thirst or frequent urination. Lethargy and weight loss can occur as well as excessive appetite. Most pet owners find out when their dog goes blind. This can occur because of the diabetes and the rapid onset of cataracts.

You can have your pet tested with your veterinarian to find out if your dog or cat has diabetes after observing signs that concern you.

What do you do when your pet has been diagnosed with diabetes? Some might make the argument to put the animal to sleep. You don’t have to do that with your pet, an animal can have a very long happy life even after being diagnosed with diabetes. You might have to alter the way you do things and you will definitely have to invest more time, care and money into your pet but the long run pays off with your pet having a long happy life.

You must make sure you have a veterinarian that you feel comfortable with and that you can work closely with as you go through the process of creating a routine to care for your dog or cat.

Your pet having diabetes is not unlike a person having diabetes watching your diet and caring for yourself a little closer than you may have prior. Making sure medications are taken on time and every day and that the diet is proper for your health. The same goes for caring for your diabetic pet.

This brings us back to the contemplation of having insurance for your pet. Does it make sense to carry insurance on an animal? It’s becoming more popular today to have something there to help defray the costs of emergencies. With so many pets being like children to their caretakers it may be of some investigation to inquire about such policies before your pet develops a disease such as diabetes. This disease alone can be quite costly for maintenance, testing and medications.

What is creating this overwhelming incidence of diabetes across the board? Is it that we as humans feed our animals inappropriately just as we do ourselves? The epidemic does make one wonder where the real catalyst lies.

I think before anyone commits to having a pet they should really try to put the looping beach scene and heart warming music on pause in their head and sit down and contemplate if the expense of caring for another life is in the budget. The life of any living thing deserves to be the best that it can be and if we are responsible caretakers of animals, then we will do our best to make sure they live as well as we would like to live ourselves.

Sources: (* S.J. Ettinger, E.C. Feldman: Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 5th Edition, Vol. 2, 2000 pg. 1438)

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