The facts about Pets and Diabetes

This weekend I got to enjoy the Saints’ win over the Bears in the Dome – WHO DAT!!! Like most of my fellow fans, I spent some of the game fueling my body with hot dogs, nachos and popcorn. It actually got me thinking about how much time we spend snacking and eating, as well as how much we enjoying feeding our pets and giving them treats. I also thought about how much the guys on the field must have eaten before the game, and what they are going to need afterwards to replenish the amount of energy they used all afternoon on both sides of the field. Sometimes, however, despite providing the fuel the body is still not getting enough energy. This is the case in the disease known as diabetes mellitus.

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All of our bodies, our pets included, are made up of millions of small engines (cells) that need a constant supply of gas (glucose) in the tank to keep running. Think of the food you eat as a crude energy or oil that needs to be refined into gas (glucose). Even though the glucose is constantly floating around in the bloodstream, it has to have the proper key (insulin) to get into the cells to be used. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that pushes glucose into all of the cells. In insulin dependent diabetes, or type 1 diabetes, there is no insulin being produced by the pancreas. In non-insulin dependent diabetes, or type 2 diabetes, there is not enough insulin being produced or something is interfering with the insulin’s ability to push the glucose into the cells (like another disease).

All diabetic pets have a very similar presentation—increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite and weight loss. Because many patients are older when diabetes presents, these signs are missed in the early stages. By the time they come into the clinic, other disease have come into play as well. This is why your veterinarian will often run a full panel of tests other than just a simple “blood sugar” test to evaluate the overall health of your pet. Just like in people, our dogs and cats can often have kidney disease, heart disease and ocular problems as a result of undiagnosed diabetes. They may even want to see if the pancreas is diseased or inflamed. Concurrent skin and urinary tract infections often affect these guys as well since diabetics are more susceptible to infections.

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The good news is that diabetes can be managed with insulin administration, a good quality diet and consistent exercise. Your veterinarian will help determine the proper dose and schedule of insulin, as well as the type. Dogs are NOT small people, and cats are NOT small dogs, so each species has a specific type of insulin as well as diet recommendation that helps manage the disease best. Getting them on a good schedule with proper management will help get them back on track to a normal, healthy life. If you suspect your pet has any changes in drinking, urinating, eating or weight loss, you should definitely bring them to a full service hospital where they can run all of the appropriate tests, and manage your pet’s diabetes if needed.