There are many diseases we have in common with our pets, and unfortunately, diabetes is one of them. Diabetes is a complex disease and to understand how this affects pets it is necessary to understand how the body normally functions.
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 tissues and cells through out the body. The levels of glucose in the blood are primarily controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. To absorb and utilize glucose, the cells need insulin which “unlocks” the cell walls so that the glucose can enter and provide the cells the energy they require to work.
Diabetes occurs when the body has stopped producing insulin, has inadequate levels of insulin to regulate glucose levels in the blood, or has an abnormal response to insulin.
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 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. Most dogs have a Type I diabetes where the pancreas for some reason does not produce any insulin. Some breeds seem to be at a greater risk, including Australian Terriers, Standard and Miniature Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Poodles, Keeshonds and Samoyeds. Obese dogs and female dogs also run a greater risk of developing diabetes later in life.
Cats on the other hand, have diabetes similar to Type II in people. In cats, diabetes is often related to an insulin resistance and glucose toxicity, although decreased production of insulin can also be found. Siamese breeds, neutered males and obese cats run a greater risk of developing this disease. In some cases, cats may be able to resolve their diabetes but, most cats and dogs will require insulin treatment for life.
The good news is that with proper monitoring, treatment, specific diet and exercise, diabetic pets can lead long and happy lives however early detection is a must! The disease is more manageable if it is detected early and managed properly with the help of a veterinarian.
If you notice any of the following symptoms your pet needs to be examined .
- Excessive drinking & urination (PUPD)
- Loss of appetite or always hungry and begging
- Depression & lethargy
- Unkempt haircoat & dandruff
- Loss of muscles & weakness
- Weight loss
- Weakness of the back legs
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, veterinarian will prescribe an initial dose and type of insulin for your pet. It is not a one-size-fits-all treatment so your pet’s treatment, based on the results of monitoring, may need to be periodically adjusted . Dietary recommendations are an important part of treatment and we will provide complimentary nutritional consultation. Successful treatment of diabetes requires regular examinations, blood and urine tests, and monitoring your pet’s weight, appetite, drinking and urination.
We are here to help you help your pet!