Diabetes is a disease that can affect people as well as their pets. Diabetes is caused by the body's inability to make or use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the level of glucose in the blood. It transfers the glucose from the bloodstream into the cells which those cells use as fuel. When the body can not produce or use insulin properly the glucose does not reach the cells but builds up in the bloodstream instead. The cells "starve" from lack of fuel and the body looks to other sources of energy in the fat and muscle tissue. Just like in people, diabetes in our pets can be managed with the proper care, diet and medications.
The Risk Factors
In cats obesity is a primary risk factor, long term use of some medications can also increase the chances of developing the disease.
In dogs genetic predisposition seems to be a big risk factor along with obesity and use of some medications. Certain breeds seem to be predisposed to diabetes including Schnauzers, Poodles, and Bichon Frises.
Diabetes can occur at any age but most pets are diagnosed after 6 years old.
Increased drinking and urination
Urinary accidents in the house
Chronic or recurring infections including skin infections or urinary infections
Whenever we see your pet at the clinic we will ask if you have noticed any changes in your pet's behavior or habits. This is where the diagnosis of many diseases begins. The observations you have made at home along with the doctor's physical examination can help determine if your pet is at risk for diabetes. Bloodwork is required to confirm if your pet has diabetes. All pets should have regular surveillance screening including annual bloodwork to check internal organ health. The importance of annual testing, especially for older pets, can not be understated. With routine screening we can detect underlying disease before it is clinically apparent.
In diabetes bloodwork will show high levels of glucose in the blood and urine.
Insulin injections are usually required to control diabetes for dogs and cats. Dietary changes are also recommended. Regular visits to the clinic for glucose curves will be needed to assure your pet is on the right dose of insulin. During a glucose curve your pet will stay with us for the day and we will take blood samples every few hours to see how they are responding to the insulin. Based on the curve your pet's insulin dose may need to be adjusted. This is an important part of their treatment, especially after first being diagnosed, to assure proper control of the disease.
At home it is very important to maintain a regular schedule for feeding and insulin injections. It is important your pet eats before you give the insulin. If your pet doesn't eat a meal you should skip that dose of insulin. Giving too much insulin can cause weakness, seizures and loss of appetite. You should let us know if you observe any of these signs.
By working together as a team, pet owners and veterinary care members can help diabetic pets live long and healthy lives.
Vetstreet: Feline Diabetes Mellitus
Vetstreet: Diabetes in Dogs