Diabetes in dogs and cats;

Could your pet be at risk?

Diabetes Mellitus (sugar diabetes) is a condition which affects both cats and dogs (and some other pet species) as well as humans. Diabetes can be summarised as an inability of the body to regulate it’s blood sugar (glucose) levels. Blood sugar level control in the body is a complex process, but one of the most important hormones that plays a part in this process is insulin, produced by the pancreas. In normal body function, insulin allows glucose to pass from the blood stream into the cells of the body, providing them with energy. A diabetic cat or dog either produces inadequate amounts of insulin from the pancreas (Type I), or it’s body cells do not respond well to the insulin being produced (Type II). This leads to the cells not getting the energy they need, blood glucose levels being too high, and glucose being flushed out through the kidneys into the urine.

These processes result in the most common symptoms seen in diabetic animals: – increased thirst – passing large volumes of urine, more frequently – increased appetite – weight loss – reduction in energy levels, lethargy.

As undiagnosed diabetes progresses, other signs can be seen including: – loss of appetite (anorexia) – vomiting – loss of vision due to cataracts (dogs) – weakness of hind limbs (cats).

Diabetes Mellitus most commonly occurs in middle aged animals and older, and more commonly affects neutered male cats and un-neutered female dogs. What should you do if you suspect your cat or dog is displaying any of the symptoms that fit with a diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus?

– The first step is to take your pet to see your Vet. If you can collect a urine sample from your pet on the same morning as your appointment and take that with you, that will help the Vet with diagnosis. The symptoms associated with Diabetes Mellitus can be caused by some other common conditions, so your Vet will examine your pet thoroughly, take a detailed history, and possibly perform further tests (including blood tests), to be able to make a diagnosis.

– If a diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus is made, in the vast majority of cases it is possible to manage the condition well, using a combination of diet, exercise and medication, most commonly and effectively with insulin injections.

– The aim of treatment in both cats and dogs is to restore a normal quality and length of life, by reversing clinical symptoms and preventing the long-term complications of Diabetes. Diabetes cannot be cured in dogs, and therefore life-long treatment is needed, but a proportion of cats will ‘recover’ from Diabetes after a few months of treatment, although this recovery is not a cure, and these particular cats need to be managed to prevent recurring clinical Diabetes.

– Your Vet will discuss with you a treatment, diet and exercise plan that is specifically tailored to your pet’s condition and lifestyle, in order to stabilise the Diabetes as rapidly as possible and to manage the condition long term. Sometimes it is necessary for cats to be hospitalised in the surgery during the stabilisation period to allow regular blood glucose measurements to be taken.

– Daily, and sometimes twice daily insulin injections form a part of the management of Diabetes for the vast majority of our patients, and therefore this is most conveniently done at home by owners. The thought of injecting our beloved pets twice a day can be a daunting one, but our experienced and understanding nurses and Vets will talk you through the process step by step, providing guidance and support along the way. Don’t worry, it’s astonishingly simple!

Once stabilised, the vast majority of cats and dogs can be managed with a simple routine at home and lead a very happy life. Regular check-ups at the surgery and following instructions related to monitoring, diet, exercise, dealing with complications, and the use of insulin, are vital. Early diagnosis is one of the keys to successful treatment and management, so don’t hesitate to make an appointment for your pet to be checked if you have any concerns.