Diabetes not only affects pets, but their families, too. An estimated 1 in 300 dogs* and 1 in 230 cats** will develop diabetes during their lifetime. It is a chronic disease that lowers a pet’s quality of life, shortens life expectancy, requires expensive treatments and demands a new way of life for their families. According to Petplan pet insurance claims data, 5,220 claims were submitted for diabetes related care in a year alone – the largest claim totaling $12,372!
What is diabetes?
Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is an endocrine disorder that leads to a high blood sugar (glucose) due to the body’s inability to produce insulin or respond to insulin.
When a healthy pet eats a meal, the pancreas produces insulin to regulate blood glucose levels by helping transport glucose from the blood into the body’s cells to be used for energy. In diabetics, glucose cannot move into these cells, depriving the cells of energy and preventing them from working properly.
There are many factors that contribute to the development of diabetes including genetics, hormones, chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), immune-mediated disease, obesity and pregnancy.
Dogs at high risk:†
- Over 6 years old
- Bichon Frise
- Labrador Retriever
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Yorkshire Terrier
Cats at high risk:‡
- Over 7 years old
Signs can vary from pet to pet and can be difficult to spot early on in disease. This is why regular veterinary wellness examinations and testing the blood and urine are critical to catching diabetes in the early stages.
Common signs your dog or cat has diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Cloudy eyes
The average cost for treatment of diabetes in animals is $282§ and includes:
1. Home care: insulin injections, feeding a veterinary recommended diet and monitoring symptoms
2. Veterinary Hospital care: examinations, blood, and urine testing and imaging tests
Generally, high fiber diets may be recommended for dog diabetes while high protein, low carbohydrate diets may be recommended for cats with diabetes. For overweight pets, daily exercise is also recommended. Ultimately, individual pet needs will guide your vet’s recommended treatment.
Untreated or unregulated diabetes can lead to conditions such as cataracts, hind leg weakness, high blood pressure (hypertension) and urinary tract infections. Emergency complications include diabetic ketoacidosis and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Will pet insurance cover diabetes?
Thankfully, yes! Pet insurance will cover the diagnostics and treatment for diabetes as long as it is not deemed a pre-existing condition. This means if diabetes or the signs and symptoms of diabetes were present prior at the start of your policy or before the waiting periods end, it will not be covered. That’s why it’s so important to protect your pet as soon as possible!
A pet insurance provider that offers comprehensive coverage will help with the unexpected veterinary costs after you enroll and the waiting periods have passed. If you have a breed that has a higher risk of developing diabetes, find a pet insurance provider that covers chronic conditions and the entire sick visit including the examination, blood work, urine testing, imaging tests and diabetes treatment.
* Feline diabetes mellitus in the UK: The prevalence within an insured cat population and a questionnaire-based putative risk factor analysis. McCann TM, Simpson KE, Shaw DJ, et al. J Feline Med Surg 9:289-299, 2007
** Canine diabetes mellitus; can old dogs teach us new tricks? Catchpole B, Ristic JM, Fleeman LM, Davison LJ. Diabetologia 48:1948-1956, 2005.
† Nelson RW. Canine diabetes mellitus. In Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC (eds) Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine (7th ed) Saunders-Elsevier: St. Louis; 2010; pg 1782-1796
‡ Reusch, C. Feline diabetes mellitus. In: Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC, eds. Textbook of veterinary internal medicine, 7th ed. St. Louis: Saunders; 2010: 1796–1816.
§ According to Petplan claims data.
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