Is my dog’s vision blurry? Difficulties in detecting pet diabetes

It can be difficult to recognize the signs of diabetes in pets

Most of us have heard that increases in the frequency of urination could be a possible symptom of diabetes. Blurry vision is also among those symptoms along with fatigue, extreme thirst, hunger, and tingling in the extremities. Even with all those seemingly easy to identify symptoms, many people go undiagnosed with type 2 diabetes. These symptoms however may not be as clearly recognizable in pets making the proper diagnosis even harder. It is quite difficult or even impossible to discover that your dog’s paws are tingling or that his vision has suddenly become a little blurry. I have heard of people actually disciplining their dog or cat for misbehaving when in fact the pet was displaying signs and symptoms of diabetes. If one is not looking for something, it is quite possible to keep missing it even though the evidence is clear.

Americans are regularly reminded by their doctors to take tests for assessing their risk of developing diabetes so hopefully they can attempt to prevent it if possible.  Knowing that you are at high risk may make it easier to catch and treat this disease early before it causes irreversible damage. Pets on the other hand have been for the most part ignored until the damage to the pet’s health becomes obvious. The good news is that recently the awareness has been steadily increasing about this very serious illness. Although diabetes affects only about 1 percent of the pet population compared to about 8 percent of the human population, our pets should definitely not be ignored because early detection is essential for our pets’ well-being.

A possible sign of diabetes in dogs is when a dog that always goes outside to urinate all of a sudden begins having accidents in the house. In cats, a sign could be weight loss and more clumped-up urine in the litter box than usual. Although not every single pet with diabetes is overweight, there is an increased risk for this disease in pets that are over their ideal weight.

In humans, diabetes is classified as Type I- insulin dependent and Type II- non-insulin dependent; however, classifying the condition in pets is quite a bit more difficult. Because diabetic dogs seem to always require insulin they may be classified as Type I and certain cats have diabetes that seems more like Type II. There are no hard and fast rules for their classification and since pet diabetes is quite a bit different than human diabetes, it’s very important to trust the expertise of the veterinarian when it comes to diagnosing, insulin dosing and frequency.

After working in a human diabetic clinic for one of my pharmacy school rotations and then later specializing in veterinary pharmacy, I quickly found out that the dose of insulin could be quite different between pets and humans. That being said, a human with diabetes can go through a bottle of insulin rather quickly while a cat that only gets a few units a day can have a vial of insulin last for many months. A very common question we get in the pharmacy is whether the insulin that is being used is still good after several months. It is very important for pet owners to be aware that once the vial of insulin is opened it should be discarded within a month, and some stretch it to two at most. In time, insulin begins losing its potency and after a few months could completely lose its effectiveness.

Another important fact about medications that are injected is that after the vial is opened, bacteria could get inside and begin multiplying. Although it does seem like a waste of money to keep discarding much of the unused vials of insulin, it is better to be safe with your pet’s health rather than taking a chance at causing an infection.

While treating diabetes in pets is at times difficult and can be quite expensive, it will be rewarding when you realize that you are prolonging the life of your companion as well as possibly helping them avoid much future suffering. If you suspect your pet has diabetes it is time to go visit the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will do all the required tests and come up with a suggested plan. Don’t leave the office until all of your questions and concerns have been answered.

Different insulin could have different concentrations per milliliter. U40 insulin for example has 40 units per milliliter and U100 insulin would have 100 units per milliliter. It is essential to always use the correct syringe with the insulin: U100 syringes should be used for U100 insulin and U40 syringes should be used for U40 insulin. If the wrong syringe is used, you will be giving your pet the wrong dose. Do not give any insulin product to your pet unless you are certain of the dose because insulin in the wrong dose could be quite dangerous.

If you have any questions about your pet’s medication, contact your veterinarian or a 1800PetMeds pharmacist for help. One phone call in this case could potentially save the life of your pet.

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