Vet Blog

Diabetes Awareness

November 07, 2019

November is Pet Diabetes Awareness Month, so let's spend a little time on diabetes and pets.

First off, the diabetes we all think of is Diabetes Mellitus (as opposed to Diabetes Insipidus, another kidney-related disease). Diabetes Mellitus is when the body is not producing enough insulin and consequently blood sugar (glucose) rises. The result can be catastrophic to the health of the body, affecting the liver, nervous system, immune system, etc. The word diabetes root is from "go through" or "siphon" - as in water going through (passing a lot of urine) and Mellitus is from sweet - as in the urine is sweet (in reference to glucose).

In humans, we talk about Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Type 1 is when the body does not produce enough insulin and it affects any age, gender, shape, and size. Type 2 is when the body does not use insulin properly and is related to diet and fitness. Lifestyle is a huge factor with Type 2 Diabetes.

Dogs Are Much Like Type 1

Diabetic dogs do not produce enough insulin so we have to supplement it, as in insulin injections - usually twice a day. Dogs don't get over this disease, they have to be managed; meaning regular monitoring. The good thing is dogs are okay with eating the same thing at the same time of day every day. This makes controlling blood sugar a little easier.

Cats Are Sort Of Type 2

Many require life-long insulin injections, although some can be "put in remission" with special diabetes diets.

In pets, we often don't monitor as frequently as humans. We get them "under control" and then check them periodically. We try to keep their diet the same every day, reducing violent swings in glucose levels. In both dogs and cats, obesity and diabetes are factors - meaning diabetes promotes obesity and obesity promotes diabetes.

So, what are the signs? What do we look for?

Remember, diabetes means passing a lot of urine. Common signs include lethargy, increases in water intake, increases in urine output, obesity, and even sudden weight loss.

You have to pay attention to intake and eliminations in your pets - this is very important. Get pets checked earlier rather than later as uncontrolled diabetes can result in a very serious, life-threatening condition called ketosis. Once under control, diabetic pets can live a relatively normal life.

Oh, by the way, horses do not get Diabetes Mellitus.