What is diabetes mellitus (DM)?
First, a quick overview - bear with us. The word diabetes comes from ancient Greek and means siphon, or running through (referring to the large volume of urine) and mellitus is Latin for sweet. The disease is appropriately named because diabetics are siphons for sweet urine. DM in animals works the same way as it does in humans. When you eat a meal, carbohydrates and sugars passing through your gut get absorbed to your bloodstream in the form of glucose.
Insulin is a hormone which signals your body to move glucose from your blood into muscles and organs to be either used for energy right away or stored for later use. In diabetic animals, insulin is either not present or not doing its job. This leaves too much glucose in the blood, where it can't be used. Hyperglycemia is the specific word used to describe having too much glucose in the blood. It is normal for an animal to be hyperglycemic right after a meal, especially one high in carbohydrates, but diabetes is characterized by “persistent fasting hyperglycemia.” An animal who is persistently hyperglycemic would have too much glucose in their blood regardless of when they last ate a meal. The blood glucose levels will get so high that glucose leaves in large quantities through the urine – hence sweet siphon – Diabetes mellitus.
How do I know if my animal has diabetes?
The three cardinal signs of diabetes in our furry friends are
- Increased drinking
- Increased urine output
- Increased eating without weight gain
These symptoms alone are not enough to diagnose diabetes. Bloodwork and urine tests will confirm the disease. If this list sounds like your animal at home, bring them into your local veterinarian. Pets will lose weight over time if the diabetes is not controlled. Some dogs can suddenly develop bright white cataracts and lose vision.
How do we treat Diabetes Mellitus?
Treating diabetes is a team effort, and you as the owner will be the most important member of that team! Insulin and diet modification are the mainstay of treatment. There are many different types of insulin which work in unique ways. Your veterinarian will develop a plan specific to your animal, but you are the one who will be carrying out this plan. In general, a diabetic food will have less simple carbohydrates to prevent a big spike in blood glucose after a meal. You will also perform once or twice daily insulin injections. Don’t worry! You do not need to be a trained nurse to do this correctly. The needle is super small, and your pet will hardly feel the poke. Your vet team will show you how to do this when your animal is diagnosed.
How do I know that the treatment plan is working?
The goal of treating diabetes is to avoid the clinical signs (increased drinking, urination, eating) while avoiding hypoglycemia (dangerously low levels of blood glucose). It may take a couple months to get there as we get used to the new diet and find the appropriate insulin type and dose. At home monitoring is very important in this process!
I would encourage every owner of a diabetic pet to keep a daily log of appetite, thirst (increased or decreased) and insulin dose. This is especially important for newly diagnosed and geriatric animals. Lucky for you (and us!), there are many innovative ways to monitor your pet’s diabetes from home. You can buy a litter additive that will change color if your cat is shedding glucose in the urine. Another great new monitoring tool is the FreeStyle Libre blood glucose monitor. For up to 14 days, your pet will have a tiny probe under its skin, continuously sampling the glucose. You will scan the patch with your phone every 8 hours or so and an app will send that data right to your vet! This product was originally developed for humans, so we know that the probe size and placement are not bothersome for everyday life.
To summarize… a well-controlled diabetic will have a stable weight, and eat, drink and pee a normal amount.
Quick note on HYPOglycemia…
Hypoglycemia is a term that describes too little glucose in the blood. Animals are much better at tolerating HYPERglycemia than they are hypoglycemia. They can live for quite some time with too much glucose in the blood, but too little can get dangerous quickly. Watch for general weakness, collapsing, trembling, and/or seizures. If you see any of these signs, rub honey or corn syrup on your pet's gums and call your vet immediately. Accidental insulin overdose can cause this sort of hypoglycemic shock.
Peter Jorgensen - Iowa State University DVM Candidate '25
What To Feed Your Pet Bird
Whether you are an experienced bird owner, or you just got your first cockatiel, lovebird, or budgie, finding the ideal diet can be challenging!
Manufactured pellet diets should be the staple.
Manufactured (or extracted) pellet diets provide the most balanced and nutritious diets for your pet. However, some birds will not naturally realize the pellets are food. Starting them on a manufactured diet while they are young is the best way to get them to recognize these pellets as food. If your bird has grown up on a seed diet, then you can slowly introduce the pellets into the seed diet and ultimately transition to a primarily pellet diet.
Harrison’s Bird Foods also offers “bird bread”, a great option for converting your pet to a manufactured diet. The bird bread loaf can contain their favorite seeds/snacks, but the loaf itself is made of the manufactured diet that your bird needs. With this loaf they will have to dig through their new food to get their treats, which will associate the flavors of the new diet with their old favorite foods. Hopefully they will also begin to eat the loaf itself and get the nutrients they need.
Other than pellets what should/shouldn’t I feed my bird?
Table scraps are often very high is salt and fat, and these are not beneficial nutrients for your pet. Specifically avoid avocado and chocolate as they are toxic! Their treats should be fruits, vegetables/legumes, and whole grains that they love and that keep them healthy. Pellets should be about 75% of the diet. The remaining 25% should be split as follows: 50% whole grains, 40% vegetables/legumes, 10% fruits.
Foraging is the act of searching for food, and birds tend to spend many hours of their day foraging. Companion birds who are not taught to forage are often bored and will spend extra time on other activities like preening. This can eventually cause themselves harm by over preening.
With pets, food is often left in one location and never moved. Providing food at multiple levels, moving the location of the food, providing food puzzles, and hiding the food are all ways to encourage foraging behaviors. With your companion bird, foraging must be taught slowly so they do not get irritated or discouraged. Start by just adding extra bowls, then advance to covering bowls with a paper, then securing the paper to the bowl, etc.
When teaching your bird to forage you should split the daily ration of food between all the bowls. This will encourage the bird to forage since they won’t be full after eating from their primary food source.
Water is also an essential nutrient.
Your bird needs fresh water as part of their diet. Make sure to clean the water dish and give fresh water daily. The majority of the water-soluble supplements or additives can become toxic, and should not be used. However, Lafeber’s “Bird Vitamins” powder is safe and can be used as long as the water is changed each day. Also, watch for feces and food remnants in the water dish and change the water if it is contaminated.
How do I know if there is an imbalance in my bird’s diet?
Companion birds are prey animals, which means it can be very hard to determine when they aren’t doing well. The only way to detect disease in the early stages is by coming to the vet for an annual exam and bloodwork. If your pet has not been to the vet for early disease prevention, the later signs to determine if your bird isn’t doing well are fluffed or unkempt feathers, tail bobbing while breathing, open mouth breathing, no longer eating, and/or inability to perch. If you see any of these signs please bring your bird in for examination. If your bird is showing signs then the issue is already severe enough that they need care.
What brands should I trust?
We recommend looking at Harrison’s Bird Foods, ZuPreem, Lafeber, and Roudybush.
Nate Hollis - Kansas State University DVM Candidate '24
The whole family should enjoy celebrating the holiday season, including your furry, feathered, or scaled friends. However, as you browse pet stores or search online, you might wonder what to give your pets this year to help them ring in the season. Below, you'll find a handful of creative holiday gift ideas to keep your pet healthy and happy.
Holiday Gift Ideas for Pets
1. Puzzle Feeders
Keeping food out in bowls throughout the day may cause dogs and cats to overeat and become overweight. Luckily, you can slow them down and make meals more fun by providing them with puzzle feeders. These devices hold food in various compartments and require animals to manipulate them in certain ways to release kibble. In addition to making meals last longer, this can provide pets with extra exercise, as they must work to solve puzzles before eating. Puzzle feeders hidden around the house give cats the chance to use their natural hunting and foraging skills, leaving you with a more interactive content cat. They also have the advantage of separating you from being the only source of food so your hungry kitty is more likely to search the house for nibbles at 4am rather than wake you up. Got a pet bird? Hiding food in paper boxes, dried pasta, or stuck into cork can provide them some fun mental stimulation and keep them active.
2. New Beds
If your pet has sensitive joints or arthritis, it might be difficult or painful for them to lie on the floor. Instead, a new bed can make your dogs and cats feel more comfortable while resting and taking naps. If your furry friend enjoys sleeping in warm areas, a heated bed can match their body temperature and ensure they remain cozy. On the other hand, if your pet likes to sleep in cooler spaces, an elevated bed with a steel frame can create a breezy effect that prevents the bedding from becoming too warm.
3. Interactive Toys
Most pets enjoy playtime and the opportunity to spend time with their owners. As such, giving your pets interactive toys for the holidays can help them get the most out of playtime, while also getting extra exercise to maintain a healthy weight. These toys may also provide mental stimulation to improve cognition and prevent boredom while you're away from home for the holidays. For cats, you might choose products that simulate the hunting experience by popping toy "prey" out of various compartments, prompting your feline to chase and pounce on them. For dogs, digging toys featuring fabric flaps under which you can hide their favorite toys and treats will let them have fun foraging and retrieving them.
4. The gift of good health!
We are an animal hospital, after all - the most important gift on our list is a checkup! We can catch your friend up on any needed preventive care and look for any minor ailments that may have creeped up over the past few months. Itchy or dry skin, slowing down, drinking more - all of these can be helped with the right diagnosis and a plan that fits your busy schedule.
Back-to-school is around the corner. Backpacks, pencils, notebooks - check. Bus schedule - check. Dog training in place - what??
Summer is winding down and routines are going to change for many of us. Start now to give your pets a smooth transition - and hopefully avoid unpleasant chewed-up surprises and trips to the emergency vet.
Here's your back-to-school list for your dog:
Start the routine early - with shorter away times
Exercise solves so many problems
Keep transitions short and smooth
Distraction is your friend
Keep it positive
So enough about the cicadas - what about our pets?
Dogs and less fastidious cats will try to snack on the cicadas and their shells.
Eating one or two cicadas is highly unlikely to cause any harm, unless your pet happens be allergic (very rare, but possible, just like some people are allergic to bee stings).
Supervise your pet outside, since the hard insect exoskeleton could cause choking.
Eating a lot of cicadas can lead to GI problems:
The bottom line - don't let your pets eat a lot of the cicadas, but don't panic if they grab a small snack. Now is a great time to teach the "drop it" command if you haven't already - you'll have lots of chances to practice it in the weeks ahead! No time to teach a command? Spend 5 minutes a day getting your dog used to wearing a basket muzzle - they're roomy enough that your pooch can eat treats, drink water, and pant while wearing one, but won't be able to pick cicadas up off the ground.
Fresh greens are a good source of water and micronutrients for your rabbit. They are the second-most important component of your rabbit’s diet after hay. In general, the darker the green, the more nutritious. Avoid iceberg lettuce as it is extremely low in nutrients. Feed a variety (at least 3 types) of greens every day for a balanced diet. Feed up to one packed cup of greens per 2lbs of rabbit per day.
Suggested greens: baby greens (salad mix counts as one type), beet tops, bok choy, basil, broccoli (top and leaves), Brussels sprouts, cabbage (red, green, Chinese), carrot tops, celery leaves, chickory, collard greens, dandelion leaves and flower, dock, endive, escarole, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, radicchio, rainbow or Swiss chard, water cress
Fruits and vegetables
A small amount of fresh fruits and vegetables (1-2 tbsp) can be a good treat for your rabbit. It's also a good way to check on your rabbit's health. If a favorite treat is getting ignored, please call your veterinarian. Avoid sugary and starchy foods like corn, peas, nuts, seeds, or sugary treats.
Suggested treats: apple, banana, bell pepper, berries (including strawberry tops), carrot, flowers (only if organic and from your garden: nasturtiums, pansies, roses, and snap dragons), grapes, kiwi, mango, melon, peach, pear, pineapple, squash
What about pellets or rabbit food?
A rabbit eating a balanced diet of hay and greens does NOT actually need pellets. They are very dense in calories, don't wear down the teeth properly, and frequently lead to obesity. But many rabbits love them, so you can offer them as a treat for training or in a pinch if hay or greens are unavailable. Rabbits less than 5lbs should be offered no more than 2 tbsp pellets per day, and up to 1/4 cup of pellets in a day for larger rabbits.
Spring brings warm weather, flowers, and allergies, and it's not just us humans who can be affected. Dogs and cats can have allergies to pollen, grasses, trees, food ingredients, and even to pet dander. So what can we do to help?
How to treat allergies:
Unfortunately, allergies aren't usually curable. They can be managed, but your itchy pet will likely need some help every time they get exposed to their trigger.
First step - reduce exposure
Is cure ever possible?
Certain pets can actually be cured of their allergies through a process called allergy immunotherapy. Skin testing is the most accurate way to find out what triggers your pet's allergies. Blood testing is becoming more accurate every year. Once the allergens are known, injections are prepared with increasing amounts of those triggers to gradually desensitize your pet. The process takes about a year.
Pets with food sensitivities (about a quarter of all allergic pets) can usually be controlled by limiting what they eat and avoiding the trigger food once we find out what it is. While not actually cured, these pets get to be comfortable without medications most of the time.
2. Can pets spread Covid? Maybe.
In laboratory settings, certain animals have spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others of the same species housed together. Cats, ferrets, and hamsters infected with the virus should be considered contagious to other cats, ferrets, and hamsters. Dogs do not seem to spread the virus to other dogs.
Most importantly, pets do NOT seem to be able to spread the virus back to people. No pet to person transmission has been documented at this time.
3. What should pet owners do?
Thankfully, you can protect your pet the same way you are protecting everyone else in your family. Follow CDC guidelines by wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, and continuing to social distance to decrease your risk of catching Covid-19.
Testing pets for Covid is only available with approval from the State Veterinarian or through university research studies. If someone in your household has Covid and your pet is showing respiratory signs, please call us.
If you have Covid:
If your pet tests positive for Covid:
We love our dogs and want to do what's best for them. But when those big brown eyes come begging, can we splurge for them? Here's a rough guide to how much to feed your dog, and how to tell if your dog is underweight, overweight, or just right.
First, make sure to start with the right food.
Every bag or can of food has an AAFCO statement in tiny print under the ingredient list that says who the food is designed to feed and how the recipe was analyzed. Start here.
1: How old is your pup?
Growing puppies need food labeled for growth. Small breeds (up to 35lbs) should eat puppy foods until they are 6 months old. Medium breeds (35-50lbs) should eat puppy diets until they are 9 months old, and large breed dogs should eat puppy food until they are close to a year old. Once your pet is spayed or neutered, switch to adult food (even if they're younger than the ages above) because their metabolism will slow slightly and we want to prevent excess weight gain. Pregnant and nursing mothers need growth food to keep up with the demands from their puppies.
Adult and senior dogs should eat food labeled for adult maintenance only. If the food is labeled "for all life stages" it is too rich for all but the most active adults because it's actually meeting the needs of growing or nursing dogs.
2. How is the food tested?
The AAFCO statement will tell you whether the food is formulated to meet the needs of... or if feeding trials were conducted to test the food. Feeding trials are usually preferable to formulation since they prove that none of the ingredients were toxic. Computer analyses can sometimes be manipulated to meet the nutritional requirements without being healthy for our pets.
Ok, now that we have the right food for your pet's age and it's been correctly tested by the manufacturer, it's time to look at your dog. The best part is that you get to pet him or her all over!
Is your dog underweight, ideal, or overweight?
An ideal weight dog will have a waist when seen from above and the belly will be tucked up when seen from the side.
Most of all, remember that weight will change over time. Make a habit of feeling your pup's body condition regularly, and adjust the amount of food and treats accordingly. Small changes make a huge difference when started early. My labrador retriever gains weight easily, so sometimes her meals need to be cut from 1 and 3/4 cups to 1 and 1/2 cups for a few weeks.
So, how much food do I give?
Most important - your pet needs less food than the label on the bag says.
A very general rule of thumb:
There is an easy to use calorie calculator from the Pet Nutrition Alliance. You can put in your dog's current weight, whether they are underweight, ideal, or overweight, and even search for your exact flavor of food. It even gives an allotment of calories from treats!
If your dog is overweight, we need to feed less to bring that body weight back in line. Please talk to your veterinarian for specifics, especially if your pet has a medical condition.
If your dog is underweight and you are already feeding the recommended number of calories, please talk to your veterinarian. There may be a medical condition preventing your pet from absorbing the nutrition he or she is eating.
If your dog is ideal, great job! Keep up your monitoring and stay that way!
Are there real holiday hazards?
However, there are some truly toxic plants that can cause more severe illness in our curious dogs and cats.
Traditional holiday plants to keep out of reach:
Beware that some decorations can be dangerous:
While we're enjoying some extra treats this month, keep the following ingredients out of your pets' reach to avoid a trip to the vet:
If you have any concerns about what your pet just got into, call ASPCA Poison Control: (888) 426-4435