Diabetes melllitus, an illness characterized by problems with carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism due to an insufficient amount of insulin present or an insensitivity to insulin; affects both dogs and cats. Problems usually develop in animals around 8 years of age or later. Symptoms commonly include drinking a lot, urinating a lot, weight loss despite a good appetite, poor coat, and low energy.
The disease is diagnosed by finding a high blood sugar level in combination with sugar in the urine; and the illness can be present long before a pet owner notices a problem. In dogs, any breed can be affected but the most common breeds affected are Poodles, Keeshonds, Daschunds, Schnauzers, terriers and others; and females are more commonly involved. In cats, there is no breed preference; but the disease happens more frequently in males. Other illnesses such as obesity, pancreatitis, and liver disease can lead to the development of diabetes. Statistics from Idexx laboratory, a landmark laboratory in veterinary medicine, indicate this disease is present in 1 out of every 400 pets; but the numbers are climbing.
Diabetes can be treated, and dogs and cats can still lead high quality lives; but it does take a big commitment from the owner. Be prepared to monitor your companion's energy, appetite, water consumption and urine output. Treatment is usually lifelong, and typically involves both insulin injections and diet change. Blood sugar values will need to be monitored frequently. Initially, patients must be stabilized. Some dogs and cats can develop severe metabolic imbalances, and may need hospitalization with IV fluids in addition to insulin and frequent blood value monitoring until they are stable. Patients that are stable on presentation will be started on insulin injections and/or a diet change, and can be treated as outpatients. Diet recommendations include feeding multiple small meals and using a food that is low in carbohydrates and fat. A weight loss diet may be recommended.
Diabetes is a challenging disease to manage. Most dogs and cats will need insulin injections twice daily long term. Sugar values will be monitored on some routine basis, based on the needs of each patient. Fructosamine levels, a value that indicates sugar balance over a two week period, may also be used to monitor patients. Symptoms at home are also an important guide in the balancing sugar levels. Oral medications that are helpful in people are usually not beneficial in dogs and cats. Dogs that are diabetic routinely develop cataracts in both eyes, even when well balanced. In rare cases, a diet change is enough to balance blood sugar levels; this is more typically a phenomenon in cats. Cats can also be transient diabetics; their need for insulin isn't always lifelong. They can stop needing insulin, and may or may not need it again in the future. Your veterinarian is the best person to detect and advise you on care if you have a diabetic dog or cat.
During the month of November, Sierra Veterinary Clinic is offering free diabetes tests for any pet. Simply download the coupon and stop by the clinic during business hours. When you arrive present the coupon and let our staff know that you're there for your pet's free diabetes test. Taking a few minutes to have your pet tested can save his life!