What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a complex disease caused by either the lack of the hormone insulin, or an inadequate response to insulin. When a pet eats, their digestive system breaks food into various components, including glucose, which is carried into their cells by insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas.
How does Insulin deficiency develop?
Insulin deficiency can develop for different reasons ranging from disorders of the pancreas to other diseases arises from presence of other hormones.
Pets susceptibility to diabetes:
Dogs and cat of all ages can get diabetes. Diabetes most typically occurs in middle aged to older pets and overweight pets too.
Signs of Diabetes:
The most common symptoms of diabetes mellitus is as follows:
- Increased drinking
- Increased urination
- Weight loss and increased appetite
- General signs, such as lethargy and poor coat condition.
Is Diabetes Insipidus the same as Diabetes Mellitus?
No. Diabetes Insipidus is caused when large amounts of dilute urine is produced. This condition prevents the body from conversing water and releases too much of it. It is far less common a condition than diabetes mellitus.
What if your pet has been diagnosised with diabetes?
We, as your veterinary team, will help you create a tailored programme looking at the specific areas which are important:
- Monitoring your pet
What is the average life span of a diabetic pet?
With dedication, the correct treatment, lifestyle and adequate monitoring, a diabetic pet should have the same expected life span as a on-diabetic pet.
What is the treatment for Diabetes Mellitus?
Insulin injections, controlled diet and exercise regimes. Each diabetic pet’s insulin requirements is different. Your pet’s insulin dose will be based on it’s body weight and it’s individual needs. The majority of pets will have better stabilisation of their diabetes with twice daily insulin injections. occasionally a diabetic pet can be managed on once daily insulin injections.
Monitoring your pet’s response to it’s insulin treatment is very important. It is useful to keep a diary showing how much water was drunk, how frequently they urinate, it’s appetite and activity levels. It is not unusual for your pet’s insulin requirements to change even after long periods of stability, that is why regular monitoring is advised. We may need to regularly check the glucose (and ketone) concentrations in urine and/or regular blood sample, so this would mean a trip to the vets to either drop off a fresh urine sample, or with your pet so we can take a blood sample.
Sometimes the vet will need an idea of what your pet’s glucose levels are doing throughout the day to monitor their body’s response to the insulin they are receiving. This is a glucose curve.
This would be done in a day, and the pet would need to come in starved. We would offer him or her their usual food and then inject the current dose of insulin. We would then take regular bloods amples throughout the day at regular intervals to observe the levels of glucose over time. This allows us to recommend accurate dosing – amount and frequency of insulin injections.
Needles sound scary, and how do I get the correct dose??
Vets are starting to use something called a Vetpen. These are similar to the insulin pens humans use. Vetpens provide a more convenient way to inject insulin rather than separate vials and syringes.
- Convenient and easier to use than vials and needles & syringes
- Reduction in needle stick injuries
- Reusable insulin cartridges
- The Vetpen protects the insulin cartridges
- Carrying case – more portable
- Accurate dosing
- Selecting a dose is as simple as turning a dial
- Precise instrumentation reduces the chance of human error
Feeding a diabetic pet…
The diet of a diabetic pet will need to be a little bit more strict than before. Titbits and treats between meals should be avoided. In ideal diet is usually:
- Restricted in fat content
- Has high complex carbohydrates content
- Or a veterinary prescription diet
Some pets can be fussy eaters. You may have difficulty trying to convince your pet to eat a low fat, high fibre diet. Don’t worry – your pet can also be stabilised on it’s usual food, although it will need the same food every day.
What should I do if i think my pet has very low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)?
As a diabetic pet owner it is a very good idea to to be aware of the following signs and what you should do. The following signs may indicate your pet is suffering from a hyperglycaemic attack:
- trembling or shivering
- unusual quietness or sleepiness
- loss of consciousness (coma)
If you see any of these signs try to encourage your dog or cat to eat a small meal, or rub some honey or glucose solution on to their gums or under their tongue. It is useful for all owners of pets who are diabetic to have a handy source of glucose readily available. Then call your vet for advice.
Obesity in dogs and remission in cats….
Diabetics are most effectively stabilised when they are at their ideal body weight. Pets that are very overweight (obese) may have “insulin resistance” meaning that insulin therapy is less effective and higher doses are required.
Weight loss in cats may have a role to play in clinical remission of diabetes. Clinical remission in cats is when after a few weeks or months of treatment a diabetic cat may no longer need insulin injections. This happens because particular cells within the pancreas are still functioning and producing insulin. The initial treatment of insulin injections allows levels within the cat’s body to stabilise to a point where the body can then take over. This can happen in 25% of cases! Insulin injections may be required at a later date, so owners will need to still be vigilant and to continue with a careful diet and exercise program.
Hope this blog has given you some information regarding diabetes in dogs and cats. It is in no means exhaustive. If you have questions regarding your particular pet, please talk to your veterinary surgeon.