Sandra Gaines spends about $130 a month on insulin for her diabetic pet, which requires two injections a day.
The Tauranga dog owner’s 13-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Molly, was diagnosed with diabetes after a life-threatening event eight years ago when she ate poison as a working dog.
“She doesn’t produce insulin ... she’s been a diabetic since then,” Gaines said.
She said Molly would sometimes pass out if her blood sugars were too low.
“The signs we look for if she’s drinking excessively then I either take her to the vet to have her blood sugar checked or I bought a blood sugar machine. I was a nurse so I know sort of how to use [it],” Gaines said.
Having a dog with diabetes meant the family could not go on holiday or drop the dog at the kennels. “She has too-high medical needs. We can’t get anybody to look after her because [they] don’t want to give the insulin.”
“It is a big responsibility and it’s like having a child ... we just take each day it comes.”
In Tauranga, 5734 dogs were recorded on the Tauranga City Council dog register and 11,936 dogs were registered with the Rotorua Lakes Council. A New Zealand Companion Animal Register spokesperson said 16,561 cats were registered in the Bay of Plenty.
Pāpāmoa silky terrier Annie, 9, was diagnosed with diabetes in August after drinking excessive water.
Owner Diane McGowan told her husband the dog was “going mad”.
“I said, gosh, she’s drinking lots ... the next day we were off down the vet and we’re very lucky we’ve got a vet down the end of our road,” McGowan said.
“She’s [was] drinking gallons and she just sits there and laps and laps and laps and then she just flops out on the floor.”
McGowan said Annie started “having a few accidents inside at night” from drinking excessively.
McGowan injects Annie with insulin twice a day and the dog has regular blood-sugar tests.
It costs the family $93 for an insulin pen, which lasts about one-and-a-half months, and $36 for a pack of 100 needles.
“It is very new to us ... it’s been a big [learning] curve.”
Whakatāne Bay Vets small-animal vet Tom Liu said if dogs or cats were “drinking a lot, peeing a lot and losing weight” it could be a sign of diabetes.
Liu said some cats stood in a plantigrade stance with their back heels dropped if suffering.
Diabetes in small animals was often treatable but required “motivation and effort” from owners, he said.
The chief operating officer of pet insurance specialist PD Insurance, Michelle Le Long, said pet diabetes often develops in cats and dogs from overeating and overfeeding.
“It’s loving your pets too much.”
She said giving pets too many “unhealthy, salty, high-fat sort of human foods” and a lack of activity created higher risk.
“People are finding ... with busy lifestyles often they can forget to take their dog for a walk or ... at the end of the day, it’s the last thing that they want to do, but it’s really just treating [pets] them like a human.”
Le Long said retaining and maintaining the ideal body weight for the breed of dog or cat was “perfect”. Monitoring pets as they aged was also important.
“Making sure that you’re not continually feeding as you used to, say, two or three years ago.”
Losing weight rapidly and cloudy eyes could also be signs of diabetes.
SPCA general manager of animal services Dr Corey Regnerus-Kell said pet diabetes in any animal could threaten their overall wellbeing.
He said owners should not “reward the waistline” of their pet and quality time or a brush with a “pat on the head” could be “just as stimulating”.
Sally Cory, the New Zealand Veterinary Associationhead of veterinary services (companion animals), said certain smaller breeds of dogs including the australian terrier, miniature schnauzers and yorkshire terriers might be more inclined to develop diabetes.
“There are certain breeds of dogs that do have a genetic predisposition to the development of diabetes.”
Cory advised owners to book an appointment with their vet for testing if concerned.
It was “not uncommon for diabetes to be triggered by other things” and underlying disease.
She said that if treated, urinary incontinence would “settle down and improve”, thirst would “start to taper off” and owners could expect to “probably [spend] a few thousand per year”.
“It always sounds a bit scary but most people and owners actually cope incredibly well.”
Michaela Pointon is an NZME reporter based in the Bay of Plenty and was formerly a feature writer.