Most of us know at least a little bit about Diabetes Mellitus in humans but did you know that cats and dogs can develop Diabetes Mellitus as well?
Diabetes Mellitus is a disease in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin and it affects cats and dogs as well as humans. When there is not enough insulin blood glucose levels start to rise.
When food is it eaten it is broken down into the nutrients needed for survival. One of these nutrients is glucose. Glucose travels from the stomach into the blood stream to be delivered to the cells where it is used for energy.
Insulin is a very important hormone which is normally produced by the pancreas. Insulin “grabs” glucose from the blood stream and brings it to the cells for energy. When Insulin is not being produced by the pancreas the glucose can not get into the cells and so their energy source is greatly diminished.
When glucose is left in the blood stream it starts to draw water from the cells into the blood making more work for the kidneys.
High levels of glucose in the blood result in decreased energy in your pet, affect the kidneys, put your pet at greater risk of infection, and even result in cataracts.
Although Diabetes Mellitus can affect any patient there are some risk factors that make Diabetes Mellitus more likely.
Pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas
Exocrine Pancreatic insufficiency (poorly functioning pancreas)
Some medications such as Glucocorticoids (such as prednisone) can pre-dispose to diabetes mellitus
Genetics – some breeds are more likely to develop Diabetes Mellitus
Unspayed female dogs
Neutered male cats
Little Physical Activity
The increased glucose in the blood and the lack of glucose in the cells results in the symptoms that we may see in our pets alerting us to a problem. These symptoms are not specific to diabetes and can be a result of other conditions as well so it is important to get your pet to a vet is you see any of these:
Increased urination – is your dog asking to go outside more often? Is your cat filling the litter box more frequently? Are there urinary accidents in the house? These can all be signs of increased urination.
Urine may be sticky or have a sweet odour
Increased risk of infections
A feeling of weakness or being tired – Is your pet sleeping more, Is s/he less social
Increased hunger without an increase in weight
Weight loss – food is not being processed properly and so if diabetes is left untreated your pet will start to lose weight.
Diabetes is not diagnosed by symptoms alone. We diagnose diabetes by finding consistent elevations in blood sugar as well as glucose in the urine. Therefore if your veterinarian suspects that your pet may be diabetic they will need to do tests on your pet’s blood and urine. They will likely want to do initial testing and then confirm these results over the next few days or weeks.
If your pet is diagnosed with Diabetes what can you do?
Treatment options can depend on a few different factors. These can include things such as how severe your pet’s symptoms are, whether your pet is a dog or a cat, and response to initial therapies.
The most common and successful treatment is insulin injections. Although this sounds daunting to some, most people find that they are able to perform these injections without difficulty. The needles are very small as is the volume of the medication. Diabetic dogs will undoubtedly require insulin injections.
Some cats still produce some insulin and so only need to “re-boot” their pancreas. Some of these patients will respond to diet and lifestyle changes alone and others will respond to oral medications. This is not the case with all cats however, and we can not determine which cats will respond or “go into remission” based on medical tests alone. We need to see how they respond to each treatment.
Once treatment is started it is important to monitor the effectiveness of treatment. If treatment is not effective, other treatments may be needed.
Since insulin removes the glucose form the blood stream it is possible for the blood levels to become too low. This is called hypoglycaemia and can be dangerous. Your pet should be monitored closely to help prevent this and you should be aware of what to look for and what to do should this occur.
If your pet is diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitus you should know the proper questions to ask to be sure that your pet receives the best treatment possible.
Questions to ask your vet:
What are the treatment options for my pet?
Which one do you most recommend?
What are the costs of medication?
How do I administer the medication?
How often should I administer the medication?
How long should it take to see improvement?
How often should my pet be monitored for effectiveness of the medication?
Can I monitor my pet myself at home?
What are the costs of monitoring for my pet’s Diabetes Mellitus?
What else can I do besides medication? ie diet ,exercise
What do you recommend that I feed my diabetic pet?
What are the risks of treatment? ie hypoglycaemia?
How do I know if my pet is experiencing hypoglycaemia?
What do I do in the instance of hypoglycaemia?
What if I have to go away and can’t be there to medicate my pet?
What other conditions can occur as a result of Diabetes Mellitus? ie infections, cataracts etc.
How Home care can decrease the stress to Diabetic animals:
Stress can play a significant role in diabetes.
The hormones excreted with stress can result in higher blood sugar even in non-diabetic patients. In times of stress the body will pump glucose to the blood stream and will also decrease the response of insulin.
Diabetes can make patients more prone to infection as can stress. Thus a stressed diabetic patient is at an even higher risk of infection.
When stress results in glucose being released into the blood stream it can make diagnosing and monitoring diabetes difficult. Is the blood glucose level high because your pet is stressed or his diabetes still not under control?
Although a house call veterinarian can not eliminate all of the stress that your pet experiences it definitely can make diagnosis and monitoring less stressful. A trip to the vet in a carrier and a vehicle is eliminated and your pet is in her own surroundings where she feels most comfortable. A house call veterinarian can help you determine how best to help your pet. She can evaluate your home environment to determine what will work best for you and your pet and suggest areas of enrichment. She can perform monitoring right in your own home or even teach you how to do it yourself.
If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us or your own veterinarian.
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