Diabetes in Dogs and Cats



Diabetes is found in one out of 500 dogs within the United States.

The number of cats suffering from diabetes is not as easily determined, but most vets see at least one or two cases of cats with diabetic problems per month.

There are two types of diabetes that humans suffer from Type I and Type II; our pets suffer from Type I, which is known as diabetes mellitus.

The name is Latin and means “honey-sweet.”

When the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the body tissues are unable to use the glucose for energy. As a result the glucose builds up in the urine and blood.

This in turn affects the kidneys, which filter out the excess glucose causing our pets to drink more water and of course, urinate more often.

This process also causes the dog or cat to become extremely hungry because they need the food for energy. Unfortunately the extra food cannot be used by the body for energy due to the fact the pancreas is not producing sufficient insulin. As a result the extra sugar that is produced needs to be eliminated by the kidneys, causing them to work overtime.

This viscous circle causes our dog or cat to lose weight, even though they are eating more. The kidneys are working overtime due to the excess glucose, which creates the extra thirst and urine problem and so the problem begins.

Frequent urination and excessive water drinking can also be a sign of a kidney infection, but when an increase in eating is accompanied with weight loss, you can be almost certain you are looking at a diabetic problem. In either case, do not hesitate to call your vet at once.

In dogs it is possible the first sign you may notice is the development of a cataract in one or both eyes. Diabetes can cause blindness in dogs.

Middle age seems to be the starting point for diabetes in both dogs and cats. However, it can strike at anytime.

There are some breeds that are more prone to diabetes than others, though no breed is immune. Among the dog breeds you will find Keeshonds, Samoyeds, the Maltese, Lhasa Apsos, Miniature Pinschers. Poodles, Beagles, Dachshunds, Bichon Farises, Fox Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, and Cairn Terriers more openly affected.

In the cat family it is usually the middle-aged neutered, overweight males that are diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, again it can strike any cat. In regard to particular cat breeds the only one that stands out is the Burmese, eight years or older.

Your vet can test your pet for diabetes by doing a blood and urine analysis. The blood tests can also detect changes in the liver, which can accumulate fat in diabetic pets and ketones which may be present in the kidneys and can cause damage to the cells.

The cost for these tests will depend on the area in which you live and your vet, but may average around $200/300 or more.

What is the treatment?

Diabetes in dogs and cats can be treated quite well, allowing the pet to live a normal life.

Simply said insulin shots and proper diet are the ingredients for prolonging a pet’s life. However, the main, most important ingredient is you.

A dedicated pet owner, one that can establish and maintain an almost unbreakable schedule is necessary.

Insulin is generally given twice a day, morning and night. The shot is relatively easy to give and most pets are not bothered by it at all. It is more unnerving to the human as sticking needles in pets or people is not a natural behavior.

It is important that several members of your household learn how to give the shots, so a regular schedule can always be met.

Your vet will give you expert instructions and you can practice on an orange until you feel comfortable.

A blood glucose meter is also an important tool to have. It will be necessary to check glucose levels on a regular basis. They are a small instrument and can be purchased fairly inexpensively.

A simple prick on your pet’s ear will provide the drop of blood you need to test the level. Your vet will teach you the procedure, as it is easy and more convenient to do this test at home rather than run to the vet’s office every time you need to do this.

Diet next to insulin is extremely important, dogs and cats with diabetes need to eat foods that are made for diabetic pets.

Dogs usually need a high fiber prescription diet along with a strict feeding schedule to coincide with its insulin shots.

Treats maybe given as long as they do not contain any sugars such as fructose, dextrose, molasses, or any other sugar type substance.

Pieces of fresh or dried meat plus low sugar type vegetables make the best treats for a diabetic dog.

A diabetic dog needs exercise, too. Moderate exercise on a daily basis will help control blood glucose levels.

Extreme exercise can cause hyperglycemia, which is low blood sugar, this creates a need for the dog to get some sugar (such as rubbing some honey on its gums) into its system at once. Symptoms of hyperglycemia are lethargy, confusion, stumbling, sudden urinary accident, vomiting, seizures or a loss of consciousness. Should this happen call your vet at once.

Cats on the other hand do best on a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. There are several commercial diabetic foods on the market for cats, however, it seems any canned cat food that fits the low carb – high protein profile will do.

It seems that cats have an easier time managing their diabetic conditions than dogs do.

A new type of insulin called glargine (it is designed for humans)is found to be working very well for cats. Apparently one dose a day along with proper diet can keep the diabetes under control for cats and many cats go into remission after a few weeks of treatment.

One thing to remember is that diabetes is not a death sentence for our pets.

As long as you, the pet caregiver is committed to giving your pet the proper medication, at the proper time and you make certain its diet is followed, your pet can love a long and happy life.

For further information here a few websites that may be of interest:

www.petdiabetes.org and from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State College, www.vetmed.wsu.edu/ClientED/diabetes.asp.

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