Columbus vets: Get your pets' diabetes under control
Central Columbus members Barry and Joani Bartelt’s 10-year-old corgi mix, Brandi, began to stumble and bump into objects two years ago due to cataracts, a condition that a blood test later revealed was caused by diabetes. To manage her illness, Brandi now receives twice-daily insulin injections and low-carbohydrate food to stabilize her blood sugar and improve her quality of life, even though she has since gone blind.
“I just wanted to make her as comfortable as I could for as long as I can,” says Barry, who spends $100 a month on insulin and needles.
Dogs and cats become more susceptible to diabetes as they age, says Dr. Joshua Halper, a veterinarian at highly rated Hillview Veterinary in Reynoldsburg. According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, diabetes most often occurs in female dogs and male cats. Genetics or being overweight may predispose a pet to diabetes, a condition in which the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin, which results in too much glucose, or blood sugar, in the body.
Halper says he diagnoses about four cases monthly. Like humans, pets become susceptible to complications from the disease and care can be costly. Symptoms include rapid weight loss, excessive thirst, vomiting and frequent urination.
Columbus member Maresa Fanelli didn’t know diabetes was causing her cat, Henry VIII, to make more trips to the litter box than usual until tests done before a routine teeth cleaning showed high glucose levels in his blood. To avoid relying on $25 vet visits to monitor Henry’s blood sugar levels, Fanelli decided to learn how to check it herself with a $175 testing kit for pets prescribed by her vet. “He’s his usual self,” she says.
Stabilizing blood sugar is imperative for pets to thrive with diabetes. Elevated blood sugar causes problems like pancreatitis, urinary tract infections, liver damage, gastrointestinal disease, blindness in dogs and neuropathy in cats, which results in weakened hind limbs or limping, Halper says.
Ketoacidosis, a side effect of diabetes in which the body doesn’t eliminate waste, can be fatal, Halper says. Too much insulin, however, causes hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and can also be fatal in extreme cases. Not eating enough can cause hypoglycemia as food helps regulate insulin absorption.
Owners of diabetic pets face the added challenge of finding sitters who can accommodate their companion’s special needs when they leave town, says Laurie Hawkins, owner of highly rated Mama Laurie’s Pet Sitting of central Columbus. Hawkins, who is a member of Pet Sitters International, Central Ohio Professional Pet Sitters and has pet first-aid training, says she first meets a diabetic pet while its owner is present to ensure she can give proper care.
“Sometimes it takes an extra visit before you even start working with them,” she says.