Diabetes is more common in older pets, but it can also occur in younger or pregnant pets. The disease is more manageable if it is detected early and managed with the help of your veterinarian. The good news is that with proper monitoring, treatment, and diet and exercise, diabetic pets can lead long and happy lives.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a condition that occurs when the body can not use glucose (a type of sugar) normally. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body’s cells. The levels of glucose in the blood are primarily controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is made by the pancreas.
As food passes through the intestines during digestion, sugars are one of the nutrients absorbed from the food. The sugars are transported into the cells that line the intestines and are converted into simple sugars (including) glucose. The simple sugars are then absorbed into the bloodstream for circulation and delivery to the whole body’s tissues and cells. Insulin is required for the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. If there is not enough insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin, glucose accumulates in high levels in the blood – a condition called hyperglycemia. When the blood glucose reaches a certain level, the glucose overflows into the urine (this is called glucosuria) and draws large volumes of water with it. This is why diabetic pets often drink more water and urinate more frequently and in larger amounts.
In diabetics, regardless of the source of the sugar or the amount of sugar in the blood, there is not enough glucose transported into the body’s cells. As a result, there is not enough energy for the cells to function normally, and, the tissues become starved for energy. This state of metabolic “starvation” causes the body to breakdown fat and muscle tissue, which is then converted by the liver to sugar. (This breakdown of body tissues results in the weight loss often seen in diabetic patients.)
In human patients, diabetes is classified as Type I or Type II. Type I occurs when the pancreas does not make enough insulin, and type II occurs when the body can not respond normally to the amount of insulin made by the pancreas. Although diabetes in pets is sometimes classified as Type I or II, the difference between the types is less clear in pets than it is in humans.
What are the signs of diabetes in pets?
Noticing the early signs of diabetes is the most important step in taking care of your pet. If you see any of the following signs, your pet should be examined by a veterinarian. The earlier the diagnosis, the better chance your pet may have for a longer and healthier life.
Excessive water drinking and increased urination
Weight loss, even though there may be an increased appetite
Cloudy eyes (especially in dogs)
Chronic or recurring infections (including skin infections and urinary infections)
How is diabetes diagnosed and treated?
Diabetes may be suspected based on the signs a pet is showing, but the diagnosis is confirmed by your veterinarian by finding consistent hyperglycemia and glucosuria. Although a diagnosis of diabetes is often relatively straightforward, your veterinarian may run additional blood tests to rule out other medical conditions seen in older pets. A urine culture might be recommended to rule out a urinary tract infection.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your veterinarian will prescribe an initial dose and type of insulin for your pet. Insulin cannot be given orally – it must be given by injection under the skin. Your veterinarian or veterinary technician will teach you how to give the insulin injections, which involve a very small needle and are generally very well tolerated by the pet. It is not a one-size-fits-all treatment, your veterinarian may periodically need to adjust your pet’s treatment regimen based on the results of monitoring. Dietary recommendations are an important part of treatment.
Successful treatment of diabetes requires regular examinations, blood and urine tests, and monitoring your pet’s weight, appetite, drinking and urination.
Information courtesy of https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Diabetes-in-Pets.aspx*