Diabetes is a treatable condition in pets but requires dedication and commitment from the veterinarian and the pet owner. Treatment is individualized for each pet and requires frequent testing and adjustment of medication based on the pet’s response.
Many of you have heard the term diabetes and probably automatically associate the word with high blood sugar. Diabetes mellitus is a disease of the pancreas that fails to regulate blood sugar.
In dogs, diabetes is more common in middle-aged female dogs with Miniature Poodles and Dachshunds being genetically predisposed to getting this disease. In cats, diabetes is more common in older male cats. Similar to humans, overweight animals are at increased risk for acquiring this disease. The most common symptom that is recognized at home is increase in drinking and urinating. Other symptoms include weakness, not eating, vomiting, lethargy, weight loss and dehydration.
Diagnosis of diabetes is based on clinical signs, persistent high levels of sugar in the blood stream and presence of sugar in the urine. Cats can be difficult to diagnose as stress (visit to the vet) can induce a temporary increase in blood sugar.
Treatment of Diabetes:
The first step in treatment is to change your pet’s diet. In dogs, I prefer to use a prescription diet that is high in fiber because they are generally lower in sugar and slower to digest. In cats, I prefer to use a prescription diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates (I like to call this the ‘cat’kins diet). It is very important to stay on a strict feeding schedule, preferably twice daily before insulin injections.
All animals with diabetes require once or twice daily injections of insulin. Unlike humans, most of the oral medications available do not work well in pets. Once your pet is started on insulin it is imperative to monitor the blood sugar every two weeks until the correct amount of insulin is being given. At these veterinary visits a glucose curve is being performed. This procedure allows us to determine the highest and lowest blood sugar readings for the day. The veterinarian is then able to determine if your pet needs more or less insulin. Once regulated, I recommend a fructosamine test every three months. This test gives us an average blood sugar level over the last two weeks.