When talking about a pet’s health there is often a lot of focus upon injuries that they sustain or how other outside factors can cause them harm or damage. We can be forgiven for forgetting sometimes that cats and dogs can suffer from conditions similar to that of humans; a prime example of this is diabetes. Let’s take a look at what the disease is, how it affects pets that develop it and what owners can to do to care for an animal with this health issue.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes revolves around the hormone in a pet’s body called insulin (produced by the pancreas) which is needed for glucose to move from the bloodstream and into the body cells to provide energy. The disease is either when a pet’s body does not allow them to use insulin properly or in fact cannot produce any insulin at all, meaning that diabetes is defined as having two types.
Type 1 diabetes mainly affects dogs and is simply when the pancreas does not create any insulin meaning that the body cells cannot take in any glucose, thus leaving the bloodstream with a high amount of glucose. With type 2 diabetes the pancreas does secrete insulin but the insulin produced isn’t as effective at moving glucose from the blood into the cells as a pet with normal insulin, again leaving the bloodstream with high amounts of glucose; this type usually affects cats.
So what are the signs and symptoms that a pet has diabetes? Well the main signifier that there could be a problem is excessive drinking and urinating. When there is too much glucose in the bloodstream the kidneys filter the fluids going through it so that the glucose does not leave the body. However, the kidneys have a glucose threshold which, if exceed, causes the body to release any excess of glucose through urine. So if a pet doesn’t have any insulin or the insulin its pancreas is producing is not moving enough glucose from the blood to the cells of the body, then they will be urinating at an alarming rate. This in turn means that extra body fluids will be lost causing the pet to drink more frequently than normal.
A drastic increase in appetite coupled with severe weight loss can also be a strong indication that a pet has diabetes. With a lack of glucose entering the cells of the body, a diabetic pet will eat more to try to get more energy but will actually be getting less glucose and thus, less energy, due to inefficient insulin or indeed, having no insulin at all. Similarly, lethargy can also be considered as a symptom of a diabetic animal, as can a coat that is seen to be in poor condition; this is particularly present in diabetic cats.
Once a cat or dog develops diabetes they usually have the condition for life, meaning it is important to be aware of not only the treatment, but also the frequency and level of said treatment. If a pet is diagnosed as having diabetes then they will need to receive regular insulin injections. Upon making the diagnosis your vet will guide you on how to administer the injections including the dosage and how often you should be giving them. After these first few weeks you may have to return to your veterinary practice so that your vet can check your pet is on the right amount of units; they’ll do this by testing your pet’s urine and blood levels.
Keeping an eye on your cat or dog’s diabetes is paramount as weight loss or gain, a change in exercise regime or another disease, mean that a diabetic pet’s insulin requirements can change. Again, if you are worried then book an appointment for your vet to check their blood and urine levels and determine whether your pet is getting the right amount of insulin.
Another point to consider when managing your pet’s diabetes is their nutrition; the kind of food that your cat or dog eats will play a significant part in determining their blood levels. Any food that is high in sugar will result in a sudden spike of glucose in the blood. However, food that has high complex carbohydrates, such as fibre, will release the glucose in a slow gradual way, reducing the chance of the animal’s body wasting the glucose through urination or staying in the blood stream.