Has your pet recently been diagnosed with diabetes or are you just curious about diabetes in pets? November is National Pet Diabetes Month which makes it the perfect time to educate our clients about daily life with a diabetic pet.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a disease of the pancreas. It is caused by the inability of pancreatic cells to produce insulin, which regulates glucose (sugar) in the blood stream.
Clinical signs of diabetes include increased drinking, increased urination, weight loss and increased appetite. Following the presentation of these clinical signs, a diagnostic workup is the next step. The following screening tests are performed when diabetes mellitus is suspected: complete blood count (CBC), serum chemistry profile and urinalysis.
An elevated serum glucose (blood sugar) concentration is vital to the diagnosis of diabetes. However, cats present us with a unique challenge because their glucose levels can become markedly increased simply due to stress. Definitive confirmation of feline diabetes mellitus may require a specialized test called a serum fructosamine test. A urinalysis is also performed to aid in the diagnosis of diabetes. A diabetic patient’s kidneys will excrete excess glucose from the blood stream into the urine.
The treatment for diabetes is daily insulin injections and a strict daily routine including scheduled feedings. The amount of insulin required is based on the species and size of the animal. Many insulin products are available, but the most commonly used in our clinic is a product called Caninsulin. Insulin treatment requires the owner to inject insulin into the subcutaneous layer of the skin twice a day. To ensure the patient’s diabetes is properly controlled, blood glucose curves are required at least every 6 months and after every dose change. Ideally, blood glucose curves are performed at the clinic. We will monitor the patient’s blood glucose level using a glucometer hourly throughout the day. Based on the results, the patient’s insulin dose may need to be increased or decreased.
Owners should continue to monitor their pets for signs of uncontrolled diabetes indicating that their insulin dose may be too low. They should also monitor for signs of tremors, weakness and unsteadiness indicating that their insulin dose may be too high. Contact your veterinarian immediately if these signs are noted.
Overall, most pets with controlled diabetes live a good quality of life with few symptoms of disease.