Everything You Need to Know about Diabetes Mellitus in Pets
Heading into a new year is a time when people are most likely to do some reflection on what changes or improvements they’d like to see, particularly around health and lifestyle. If you’re someone who likes to make new year’s goals, we want to encourage you to start reflecting on your pet’s health.
Part of the Cuyamaca Animal Hospital mission is to help people become more educated pet parents. Too often, other veterinarians diagnose in a language that leaves people confused and frustrated, which means pet parents are more likely to make decisions that could be potentially ill-informed… through no fault of their own.
Whether or not your beloved companion has been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s hard to know where to start in understanding this condition: What are the causes? Is it preventable? What is the difference between diabetes mellitus in cats and dogs? How can we treat diabetes?
Here’s everything you need to know:
What is Diabetes Mellitus?
To start, it may be easier to understand diabetes first by understanding the pancreas and its typical functions. The pancreas secretes hormones into the bloodstream, and digestive enzymes into the intestines. One of the hormones that the pancreas normally secretes after a meal is insulin, which takes glucose (sugar) from the blood into the cells where it is then converted into energy.
Diabetes mellitus results from a deficiency of insulin secretion by the pancreas. If there isn’t enough insulin to convert glucose into energy, glucose then accumulates in the blood causing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). In this case, the cells think the body is in starvation mode because they can’t utilize the glucose, and as the glucose levels increase, the kidneys begin to excrete the excess glucose in the urine causing excessive urination & thirst.
In diabetic pets, either the insulin isn’t being produced to drive the glucose into the cells, or insulin is present but cannot transfer glucose into cells because something is preventing it (i.e. infection, heart disease, stress, steroids, etc.).
What Causes Pet Diabetes?
Humans often associate health and lifestyle as being the leading factors or causes of diabetes, but for dogs, it’s typically more related to genetics and breed predisposition. Certain terriers, schnauzers, and bichons tend to be at an increased risk for diabetes.
For felines, cat parents can make sure that their kitties are maintaining a healthy weight. Like humans, obesity in cats is the most common risk factor for developing diabetes. To help prevent, you should feed your cat species-appropriate foods, which often include canned food without carbohydrates.
Unfortunately, canine diabetes is not as preventable as diabetes in cats. If your dog is genetically predisposed to diabetes, you can keep him or her on a low-fat diet to reduce episodic inflammation that can interrupt insulin secretion.
What are the Signs of Pet Diabetes?
For both cats and dogs, signs can include increased thirst and increased urination. Diabetic pets may also seem insatiably hungry—showing signs of hunger even after they’ve eaten, and even losing more weight despite eating. More severe symptoms happen after diabetes is left untreated—vomiting, collapsing, and we hate to say it: death. But that’s why it is always important never to ignore signs when your pup or kitty seems “off.”
Diabetes mellitus is first diagnosed when your veterinarian sees the typical signs as outlined above, but pet parents should keep in mind that one way to catch diabetes early is by taking your pets in for routine blood work. Your vet can monitor your dog or cat's glucose levels. This is especially crucial for pets with predispositions to diabetes. High levels of glucose in the blood and urine is indicative of diabetes in pets.
How Do You Treat Pet Diabetes?
Treating pet diabetes will involve ongoing and consistent therapy, the primary goal being to eliminate signs secondary to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Limiting blood glucose fluctuations and maintaining nearly normal glucose levels help minimize clinical signs and prevent complications associated with poorly controlled diabetic pets. Therapy involves proper insulin administration, diet, exercise, medications, and/or avoiding or preventing other diseases from occurring.
Insulin therapy requires pet parents to closely evaluate their pets’ water intake, urine output, appetite, and body weight. When these factors are normal, then diabetic pets are usually adequately controlled (meaning, their glucose levels and insulin dosage is well-balanced). From there, insulin dosage should be re-evaluated by your vet every 2-4 months.
As with many conditions in pets, diet and medicine for diabetes is complicated. This is especially true when you consider the differences between diabetic cats and dogs, with each species having their own unique needs. If you have a diagnosed diabetic pet, or you suspect your pet may develop diabetes, why not take him or her to Cuyamaca Animal Hospital?
Once we determine your pets’ needs, we can determine what kind of dietary therapy is best for him or her. In obese pets, we can also work with you to develop the best dietary plan and feeding schedule. As pet health experts, we not only want the best for your pet, but we want you to be as informed as we are on the different types of insulin and medicines available. Give us a call today at (619) 448-0707 so we can get started!