Advice to Owners of Diabetic Pets

April 6, 2018

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM, Ruth MacPete, DVM, and Azi Chegini give advice to owners of a newly diagnosed pet with diabetes on how they can enjoy a healthy life and how this is a manageable condition with so many tools available to help them, further discussing areas of research in the pipeline for pets with diabetes including gene therapy.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: Dr. MacPete, this has been an amazing conversation. What would you say to your clients, your diabetic pet owners? Should they watch this conversation we just had? Why?

Ruth MacPete, DVM: I think when anybody first finds out that their pet has diabetes, that can be really scary to hear. Hearing from Azi and seeing Spider and how great he’s doing with diabetes, it’s what people need. They need to see that.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: It’s OK.

Ruth MacPete, DVM: Yes, it’s OK. It’s not a scary disease. It’s manageable. It’s doable. You can see how well Azi has done with it and how well Spider has done with diabetes and how great he looks. It’s something that veterinarians can certainly share with their pet parents and their clients. If they have an animal that’s diabetic, they can realize they’re not alone and that this is a manageable condition.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: And it’s a team thing, right? We’re a team.

Ruth MacPete, DVM: Absolutely.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: The pet parent or the owner, the pet, the veterinarian, we all have our part and we all talk and our goal is the same: a good quality of life and a happy, long life for diabetic pets. And it’s achievable, right?

Ruth MacPete, DVM: Yes.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: If people watch that, I think they’ll get that impression.

Ruth MacPete, DVM: Yes, and see how great Spider looks. I think a lot of people think that a diabetic pet is a sick pet. While that’s true, they have a medical condition. It’s a manageable condition, just like with people. I think people are always surprised to see how great a dog can look with diabetes, and how happy he is.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: We’ve been sitting here for a while and not once did we have to check his blood sugar or do anything else. He’s just a normal healthy dog.

Ruth MacPete, DVM: He still like veterinarians.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: Great, thank you. With programs like this PetConnections, the goal is really for pet owners, for pet parents, to be able to see what type of topics are talked about amongst veterinarians and their clients and how manageable diseases are, and just to learn from other people’s experience. Azi, how do you feel about that? How do you feel that other people could watch this and get a feeling that it’s worth it at this PetConnections?

Azi Chegini: I tell you, just a couple of weeks ago I ran into a friend of mine who was telling me about her dog who just got diagnosed for diabetes. What I saw in her face was what I felt myself. As soon as I get back, I’m going to make sure that she knows that there’s going to be a video like this at PetConnections, because this is tremendous. This is going to help her to get comfortable, to hear from you guys—not just from her veterinarian—and know that this exists but there is a solution. Her dog is going to be just like Spider, at least controlled.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: Well, no dog is just like Spider.

Azi Chegini: No, Spider is very special. But I think that’s such a great resource, to be able to have something to go to.

Ruth MacPete, DVM: It is. I think as veterinarians, we know that pet owners, pet parents, are always looking for more information. Finding out that their pet has diabetes or cancer or different diseases can be shocking. Having a resource that they can go to…

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: A reliable resource.

Ruth MacPete, DVM: Yes, a reliable resource like PetConnections that they can go to and watch and learn from about a disease that their pet has is invaluable. That’s really what people want. They want more information. Like you said, reliable information. Our job as veterinarians is to help give them places that they can go where they can get reliable, sound information so that they understand more about what their pet has and how to treat it and how to manage a disease.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: Perfect, thank you. Azi, we’ve talked a lot about Spider, we’ve talked about dogs, and we’ve talked about cats. In closing, what would your bottom-line advice be for an owner of a newly-diagnosed pet with diabetes? What would you say?

Azi Chegini: That’s a great question. Number 1, I would say to read. Number 2, listen to your veterinarian. Number 3, watch the “Pets in Action” video. Watch it a few times until you really understand that this is not the end of the world, and you and your pet can enjoy life and a healthy life.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: Dr. MacPete, we get asked questions all the time, in parties or wherever we go. Someone comes up to you and says, “Oh, I hear you’re a veterinarian. I have a diabetic dog.” What is your general advice?

Ruth MacPete, DVM: I agree with what Azi said. The first thing is for people to really understand that this is a manageable condition, because I think that people hear that and they immediately are shocked. They’re sad, they have so many emotions, and I think the first thing is to breathe. Breathe, calm down, and realize that you are part of a team, that your veterinarian is there for you, that this is a manageable condition, and that we’re fortunate to have so many different great products like you mentioned. Medicine is so advanced that we can treat animals with diabetes and manage their condition so that they can have a long, healthy life. We have all these tools now, such as home monitoring, that they can be using at home to work with their veterinarian to really manage their diabetes.

I would just tell them that we’re lucky to be living in this time and to be part of a team. Work with your veterinarian. Take the time to understand diabetes and realize that, like you said, it’s not the end of the world. There are far worse things that a pet could have. This is a manageable condition. It’s going to be done as a team effort to help your pet live a long healthy life.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: Great. Speaking of products, I know we’ve talked about where we are today, and we’ve come a long way even in the past 15 or 20 years or so with the diets that we have and the special veterinary insulins that we have and the ability to do home monitoring with the glucose monitors that we have. What do you think the next step is? What are we looking for? What would you like to see us accomplish in research in diabetes for dogs and cats?

Ruth MacPete, DVM: I think gene therapy is definitely the hot topic.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: Sure, I’m just curious.

Ruth MacPete, DVM: Just like in humans. Obviously, if we can correct the genetic component to it, that’s key. That would be wonderful, because that’s obviously looking to cure diabetes on the human side as well as the pet side.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: And in the meantime, is there anything that you think should be out there?

Ruth MacPete, DVM: I think in the meantime, medications are getting better. Home monitoring has been a huge step that we didn’t have years ago, because that’s really allowing us to work with the pet parent at home and monitor their diabetes better. We’re getting tighter control. Therefore, there are more cats in remission and more dogs that aren’t having complications like cataracts or other issues, because their diabetes is controlled better. So, that has been a step in the right direction.

I think we’ll maybe get better with pumps. Medical devices are also hot topics right now in medicine on the human and vet side. Maybe we’ll have little insulin pumps for dogs, where it’s controlling the diabetes and doing more of that as well.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: I’m really looking forward to it.

Ruth MacPete, DVM: Yes.

Azi Chegini: Me too.

Richard Goldstein, DVM, DACVIM: This has been a great discussion. I would like to thank all of our panel experts for helping us learn more about diabetes in pets. Azi, thank you for sharing Spider’s story, and thank you for watching Pet Connections.