Diabetes is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases in dogs and cats. Diabetes can be a debilitating and even life threatening disease for our pets. Often it goes unrecognized before it is diagnosed and treated.
There are different types of Diabetes. Diabetes Insipudus is an uncommon condition in which the pet is unable to concentrate his or her urine for a variety of reasons. Diabetes Mellitus (DM), commonly referred to as “Sugar Diabetes” is the other, more common type diagnosed in house hold pets. There are two types of DM. Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is caused by the insufficient production by the pancreas of the hormone known as insulin. This is by far the number one type of Diabetes that is diagnosed in dogs and cats. Type 2 diabetes is a result of an inadequate response by the animal to insulin.
In a healthy body, insulin is produced by the pancreas in the abdomen that facilitates the uptake of sugar or glucose by the cells and organs of the body. Glucose is vital for the normal function of all the body parts. Glucose comes from the diet. When an animal goes without food, the body must break down fat, stored starches, and protein to supply calories for the hungry cells. Proteins and starches may be converted into glucose. Fat, however, requires different processing that can lead to the production of ketones rather than glucose. Ketones are another type of fuel that the body can use in a pinch but the detection of ketones indicates that something wrong is happening in the patient’s metabolism.
In an animal with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, there is inadequate production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas. When this happens, the cells in the body are unable to retrieve sugar from the blood. Therefore, the body is fooled into thinking that there is no glucose in the blood and thinks that it is starving. This leads to the breakdown of proteins, starches, and fats and the production of ketones, which in excess can become harmful to the body. As the pet continues to eat, glucose will build up in the blood stream and eventually spill over into the kidneys and urine. Glucose is able to draw water with it into the urine. This leads to excess urine production and excess thirst to keep up with the fluid loss.
Clinical signs of Diabetes are excessive eating with disproportionate weight loss, increased drinking, and urinating. Some dogs will develop cataracts in both eyes secondary to the diabetes. If severe enough and ongoing long enough, cats may exhibit a plantigrade stance, where they stand with their hocks touching the ground. Most dogs are 7 to 9 years of age, with twice as many females as males being affected. Cats are typically 6 to 10 years of age when diagnosed and are predominantly male.
Diabetes Mellitus may be suspected on physical exam and with an appropriate history. However, diagnosis requires blood work and a urine analysis. Demonstration of high sugar in the blood stream with the presence of sugar in the urine gives the veterinarian the diagnosis.
Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus is twofold. The most important is to place the patient on an appropriate diet. The second part is insulin injections. Monitoring of the blood sugar levels is imperative during treatment to ensure adequate control without creating a low blood sugar level in the pet. If discovered at the early stages, DM has an excellent prognosis. Some cats may be cured and will not require insulin injections long term if caught early enough and with institution of a good diet.
If you have any questions regarding the above information or any questions/concerns in general, please contact Twin Valley VHS at 745-6642.
Dr. Justin Noble DVM
Twin Valley Veterinary Health Services