Diabetes is a condition brought on when an organ in the body, the pancreas, does not produce insulin. The concern here is that in order for the pet to metabolize sugar from their meals, they need insulin to help convert the sugars into a useful substance that the body can then absorb and utilize for energy. When this happens, the blood becomes overwhelmed with glucose (our energy supply), but without the insulin to make the glucose useful, the body thinks it is starving – going into panic mode – and begins breaking down fats, stored starches, and proteins to feed all of the hungry cells. Now, while starches and proteins can be broken down in glucose for energy, fat breaks down into ketones. Detection of ketones on lab work show that there has been a large amount of fat breakdown, but a very serious complication, diabetic ketoacidosis, can occur as well from prolonged unregulated diabetes.
Common signs you might start to notice in your pet and warrant a trip to see us would be excessive thirst, excessive urination, increased appetite, and weight loss. Blood work helps us in diagnosing the condition by showing high glucose elevations in the blood and sometimes glucose being present in the urine, too. Glucose numbers can be falsely elevated in a stressed pet when they come to see us, so taking a thorough history and running blood work as well as urine helps us to accurately identify the condition vs. a pet that is just ready to go home from their vet visit!
- Age. While diabetes can occur at any age, it mostly occurs in middle-aged to senior dogs. Most dogs that develop it are age 5 or older when diagnosed.
- Gender. Un-spayed female dogs are twice as likely as male dogs to have diabetes.
- Chronic or repeated pancreatitis. Chronic or repeated pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can eventually cause extensive damage to that organ, resulting in diabetes.
- Obesity. Obesity contributes to insulin resistance and is a risk factor for pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes.
- Steroid medications. These can cause diabetes when used long-term.
- Cushing’s disease. With Cushing’s disease, the body overproduces steroids internally, so this condition also can cause diabetes.
- Other health conditions. Some autoimmune disorders and viral diseases are also thought to possibly trigger diabetes.
- Genetics. Diabetes can occur in any breed or mixed-breed, and it seems genetics can play a role in either increased or reduced risk. A 2003 study found that overall mixed-breeds are no less prone to diabetes than are purebreds. Among purebreds, breeds vary in susceptibility, some with very low risk and others with higher risk. Some that may be at higher risk include miniature Poodles, Bichon Frises, Pugs, Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, Puli, Samoyeds, Keeshonds, Australian Terriers, Fox Terriers, Cairn Terriers, and Beagles.
Types of Diabetes
Type I: Insulin dependent diabetes. A majority of the time, this is the type that of diabetes that dogs get – the pancreas stops producing the insulin so we must supplement the body with insulin to aid in proper metabolism of sugars.
Type II: Non-Insulin dependent diabetes. This is the type of diabetes that most cats will get. The pancreas produces some insulin but not enough to effectively metabolize the sugars, so we supplement with insulin and sometimes there is the potential that the pancreas in a cat can improve its insulin-secreting abilities and lead to remission.
Good glucose control and proper diet are beneficial – this can lead to a resolve in diabetes for some lucky cats, but unfortunately our canine companions are in it for the long haul with this being a maintained disease for the rest of their life. Ideally, cats should be fed a low carbohydrate, high protein diet, and dogs should be fed high fiber diets. Seeing as this could be tricky to formulate, we have diets specifically designed for diabetic pets that they can be switched to.
At home care is usually the way we treat diabetes, teaching you how to administer the tiny amount of medication under your pet’s skin (subcutaneously) twice daily after a full meal. On occasion, a newly diagnosed pet that is doing poorly might spend some time with us while we get them regulated, but a majority of the time they get to go home the same day to start on their new routine.
We send you home with the selected insulin, syringes, and diabetic diet. You will need to feed a full meal every 12 hours and then administer the prescribed dose of insulin immediately after they have eaten. It is very important to set a schedule and stick to it!
Routinely, a newly diagnosed pet will most likely need a few glucose curves to identify the dosage that they need to be on to effectively regulate their diabetes. This is done by having them stay with us for the day so we can take glucose measurements every 2 hours to see how they are utilizing their insulin. This is called a “curve” because if the insulin is working properly, the results will make a curve when graphed.
Once we get to a dose that is appropriate for your pet, we then monitor every 3-6 months with another curve and urinalysis to make sure we are staying on track and maintaining an accurate treatment for them. Of course, if there is a change in symptoms we see them right then and repeat testing when the problem occurs (feeling ill, losing weight, increase or loss of appetite, drinking/urinating excessively, disoriented/groggy).
by: Kaitie Barczak