Animals & Money: The cost of your pet getting diabetes

Today is National Diabetes Day, and the folks at Webvet are trying to make people aware that dogs and cats are facing their own mini-epidemic of diabetes. It's not anywhere near as severe as the human spread of the disease. About one in 400 dogs and cats now has diabetes compared to one in 12 people.

Just like in people, lousy diet and exercise habits are causing more diabetes all around. The difference is dogs and cats aren't the ones deciding how much food they get and how many times they exercise. We are. Yeah, I know they have those irresistible eyes. That's why one-quarter of our cats and dogs are now clinically obese, according to Webvet. PetClubUK says overweight cats are four times as likely to get diabetes.

To be fair, diabetes isn't just caused by being fat, in either humans or animals. Genetics plays a huge role. In dogs, females and certain breeds, such as miniature Pinschers and cairn terriers are more likely to be afflicted with diabetes. No gender has an upper hand in cats, though some think Burmese are more susceptible.

Having an overweight pet doesn't necessarily mean anyone is being irresponsible. Many cat owners keep their kitties inside out of concern for all the birds cats kill a year -- estimates range from several hundred million up to one billion by some counts. Indoor cats are certainly going to be more bored, sedentary and tempted to overeat.

The real cost of overfeeding your pet is that if they acquire diabetes, your friend may suffer and die early.

But in this harsh economic climate, let's also look at some numbers about how much money overfeeding your dog or cat might cost you. First, there's all the extra food you're dispensing. Then, let's look at what diabetes will cost you. Once pets get sick they usually need shots -- injections that you will have to learn to give them yourself. And they may need a special food from your vet.

On DB Diabetes, a website of drug maker Becton, Dickinson, you can expect to pay about $50-$70 a month for your diabetic dog's medicine and another $30 to $50 extra for specialized food. (Big dogs cost more.) That means it's $50 to $120 a month or $600 to $1,440 a year to care for a diabetic dog. For cats it's about $65 to $95 for insulin and glucose testing and another $30 for special food. The bill for a year would be $780 to $1,500.

Would you be able to afford to keep your pet alive? That's a lot of money -- and money a lot of us don't have right now. The best thing for your cat, your dog and your wallet is to stop overfeeding.
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