Dogs and Cats
Get Diabetes Too!
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month for humans but also for our furry friends too! Many people are not aware that dogs and cats can have diabetes just like their human counterparts. While the disease process can be slightly different in pets, there are many similarities too. This article will provide a brief simplistic overview of canine and feline diabetes. Remember, if you suspect there may be an illness in one of your pets, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your family veterinarian!
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a disease that results in persistently elevated blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. In humans, this is caused by either a lack of insulin production from the pancreas (Type 1) or a developed insulin resistance (Type 2). Type 2 is the one typically linked with obesity, other disease process, decreased activity, and poor diet. Diabetes mellitus in a cat is more similar to human Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes of the dog is more similar to human Type 1 diabetes.
The most common symptoms in a pet with diabetes are excessive drinking and urination, weight loss and increased appetite. A complication of diabetes is a condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). This is a very serious condition that may have symptoms such as depression, lethargy, anorexia and vomiting. This is most commonly seen in newly diagnosed diabetics or those with concurrent disease processes. As always, if you notice any abnormal symptoms in your pet, have them seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Your vet will first perform a physical examination on your pet and get a detailed history from you. They may want to run blood tests such as a blood glucose level and perhaps a full lab panel including a CBC, blood chemistry, electrolyte panel and urinalysis. They may also recommend a blood test called a fructosamine, which looks at the average blood glucose level over time. This is done to try to rule out influences such as stress that can artificially raise the blood glucose level as many patients are stressed at the vet clinic. They may recommend doing radiographs (x-rays), abdominal ultrasound, urine culture or other specialized tests. You and your doctor will come up with a plan specific to fit your pets and your family’s needs.
Once a diagnosis of diabetes is obtained, your doctor will likely recommend starting your pet on insulin therapy. This typically consists of twice daily subcutaneous injections of insulin, given after your pet eats a meal. Your veterinarian or their staff will show you how to give these injections and how to make it a positive experience for your furry friend! It is important to note that if your pet is not eating, you do not want to give them insulin as they may develop low blood sugar. If your pet is not eating, call your veterinarian right away for help. It is also important to make sure that the type of insulin syringe you are using, matches the type of insulin you are giving. Be sure to ask your doctor to explain the difference to you. There will be other details for them to teach you such as how to store and mix up insulin. Lifestyle and diet changes may also need to be made depending upon your pets case.
When your pet is first diagnosed there will likely be frequent visits to the vet to make sure they are on an appropriate dosage of insulin and are responding favorably. The majority of diabetic patients are easily managed by your family veterinarian. If they are having trouble regulating the blood glucose or your pet is still showing signs of illness, they may refer you to a specialist, such as an Internal Medicine Specialist.
When pets have difficult to manage diabetes, they often have concurrent underlying diseases that a specialist can help to uncover and treat. Controlling this underlying disease process can then help to control the diabetes in the long run. Occasionally, patients may go into remission and no longer insulin therapy. This is seen more commonly seen in cats. The majority of patients however will need lifelong insulin therapy and veterinary management.
Your dog or cat with diabetes can live a long and happy life with proper management from your veterinarian and of course, dedication from you!
Cheers to National Diabetes Awareness Month!
Katie, BS, AAS, LVT