Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs and Cats Part I: Diagnosis
What is Diabetes
Dogs and cats can get Diabetes just like humans. Diabetes (or Diabetes Mellitus) is a disease that is caused by an insulin deficiency or insulin resistance (the body doesn’t respond normally to insulin). Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas. Insulin is necessary for the body to use sugar (glucose). The cause of diabetes is uncertain, but genetics and obesity play a role in the development of the disease.
Without insulin the body tries to use fat and protein for energy and that leads to serious health issues.
What are the Signs of Diabetes
Common signs of Diabetes include:
- weight loss
- increased drinking and increased urination
- chronic or recurring infection including urinary tract infections
- In some pets with diabetes, serious changes can take place which can lead to life threatening illness.
What is the Treatment for Diabetes
Most diabetic dogs and cats will require daily insulin replacement or supplementation. Oral medications used in humans with diabetes are generally not effective or recommended. Without insulin, sugar can’t be used, and severe symptoms can develop. Insulin is given by an injection under the skin usually every 12 hours. There are some veterinary specific insulin products, and we sometimes use human insulin. It is important to use only the insulin and syringes that have been prescribed specifically for your pet.
The diagnosis of diabetes will require a visit to your Veterinarian. A blood sample and a urine sample will be collected and analyzed. The diagnosis can usually be made by seeing excess sugar in both the blood and in the urine. We can run the tests here at The Androscoggin Animal Hospital and get results the same day.
What is the Prognosis
With early detection, individualized medical management, and good home care, pets with diabetes can lead relatively happy and normal lives. Although some cats may stop needing insulin if the disease is detected early and treated aggressively, there is no cure for diabetes and most pets require lifelong treatment. Diet change is also recommended to help control blood sugars.
Some important keys to care are:
- giving insulin consistently (every 12 hours)
- dietary management including a consistent diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates
- veterinary monitoring including periodically checking urine and blood samples.
There are many resources to help you if your pet has diabetes. The first step is to control risk factors for diabetes, and visit your veterinarian on a regular basis.