Diabetes in Dogs and Cats

November 29, 2011

Diabetes occurs in the dog and cat with equal frequency. Just like in people, it is a disorder of blood sugar regulation.

There are two types of diabetes. The first is insulin DEPENDENT diabetes and the second is NON-INSULIN DEPENDENT diabetes. Dogs invariably get insulin dependent diabetes. Their immune system decides to rapidly destroy the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Without insulin there is a rapid rise in blood sugar and the onset of the following signs:

1 Drinking a lot of water
2 More frequent urination, sometimes in the house, if they can’t get outside
3 Weight loss in spite of increased appetite
4 The owner may notice that when they clean up an accident, the urine feels sticky

The diagnosis of diabetes is easy. A quick blood sugar check combined with a urine sugar check will usually confirm the diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment is important in order to prevent the life threatening complication knows as diabetic ketoacidosis. (DKA)
The treatment for the diabetic dog involves giving an injection of insulin twice a day under the skin. Uncomplicated diabetic dogs do very well and live normal and long lives.

Feline diabetes can be more complex because the destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas is much slower and more variable than in the dog. The cat’s ability to respond to his own insulin is influenced by obesity and other medical conditions in his body. Therefore some cats will flip back and forth from a diabetic to a non-diabetic state making their management challenging.

Signs of diabetes in the cat are similar to the dog:
1 Weight loss in spite of an increased appetite
2 Drinking more water
3 Large clumps of urine in the box and a much heavier box
4 Urinating out of the box

Treating the diabetic cat usually involves insulin injections. Sometimes, owners can try oral medication and diet change.
My clients often wince when I tell them they will need to give their pet a “shot” twice a day. In fact, this is probably the easiest part of caring for a diabetic pet. The needles are extremely small and painless. All my clients have been able to learn how to give insulin injections.

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