Monthly Newsletter

NOVEMBER Awareness: Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is caused by an irregularity in the production of a hormone called insulin.  Insulin is one of the hormones produced by the pancreas, and it regulates the body’s ability to use glucose. Glucose comes from the food that your pet eats, and is in turn the food for your pet’s cells. Without the proper amount of insulin, the cells cannot take the glucose from the bloodstream and pull it into the cells to use it for energy. This results in an extreme amount of glucose in the bloodstream, which is eventually excreted in the urine. This large amount of glucose in the blood can also cause cataracts in the eyes of dogs. Because the body’s cells cannot use glucose for energy, they break down protein, starch and fat that the body has stored up, which can make the pet lose weight and act as if they are starving, even if they are eating well.

Some of the main clinical signs of diabetes include:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive urination
  • Excessive or lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Acting disoriented or lethargic

How is Diabetes Diagnosed?

Once your veterinarian suspects diabetes as a possible diagnosis, there are two ways they can determine if your pet is in fact a diabetic. The first is to test for elevated blood sugar. This requires a very small amount of blood and glucometer (a small machine which quickly gives blood sugar levels). However, because some pets (especially cats) can raise their blood sugar just from the anxiety of being at the vet, a fructosamine level may also be requested. The other quick way to diagnose diabetes is to test the level of glucose in the urine. A diabetic pet will have high levels of glucose in their urine.   

Treatment for Diabetes

Once diagnosed with diabetes, it is very important that your pet starts treatment immediately.  The initial treatment for diabetes is subcutaneous injections of insulin. Your veterinarian will determine an appropriate insulin dose for your pet, and explain how it is to be regulated. This generally coincides with regular testing (be it urine or blood) to make sure that the dosage is accurate. Along with insulin injections, it is usually recommended that the pet’s diet be changed to a diabetic diet (Ex: Hills M/D, Royal Canin Glycobalance).  

After some time of insulin injections, it is possible for a cat’s pancreas to improve it’s insulin-secreting abilities and for a cat to become non-insulin dependent. However, the diabetes can return without proper diet and medication. In dogs, this phenomenon of becoming non-insulin dependent is not possible. A diabetic dog will require insulin injections for the rest of its life.

For more information on diabetes, questions, or concerns please feel free to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors today!