First of all, what IS diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition where the body no longer processes sugar appropriately and allows the blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels. Blood sugar is regulated by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. In diabetic patients, this hormone is either not being produced, or the body has become resistant to the hormone. In people these two different variations of diabetes are differentiated as either Type I – where there is a lack of insulin production – or Type II – where there is insulin resistance
What causes diabetes?
We don’t have an easy answer. Chronic inflammation, or destruction of the pancreas can lead to an inability to produce insulin in dogs or cats – and may be related to a genetic predisposition. In cats, we can also see insulin resistance secondary to obesity and/or diets high in carbohydrates.
How can I tell if my pet has diabetes?
Pets with diabetes frequently start drinking more water than usual, urinating more frequently – potentially in unusual places, or having accidents in the house – and may be eating more than normal. As the disease progresses pets can become very ill, with vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and/or they may stop eating.
The veterinarian will diagnose your pet with diabetes based on blood work and a urine test to look for elevated glucose in the blood and urine.
Can it be cured?
In pets with a true lack of insulin production, we cannot “cure” diabetes. We manage it by trying to replace the lack of natural insulin with insulin injections and diet changes to control the blood sugar. The pet will need to be on insulin supplementation for the rest of its life and will need to have its blood sugar monitored closely to ensure the insulin dose is appropriate. In some cats with insulin resistance, we can may see remission of the insulin resistance. In those cats, they may no longer need insulin supplementation and can be managed with close attention to diet and weight control alone.
Will my pet be okay?
Once diabetes is diagnosed your pet will be checked to ensure there are no other concurrent disease processes such as urinary tract infections, or pancreatitis, and any vomiting/diarrhea or dehydration will be addressed. Once your pet is stable, they will be started on twice daily insulin injections and strict diet recommendations. Your pet’s blood sugar will be monitored carefully over the next few weeks, as the insulin dose is calibrated to your individual pet’s diet, lifestyle and metabolism. Once the ideal insulin dose is found and the blood sugar is regulated, many pets can do very well as long as they are continued to be well managed and monitored closely.