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Diabetes in Cats and Dogs


                                                                 Understanding Diabetes in Dogs and Cats

Diabetes Mellitus is a life long incurable disease. However while the disease may not be curable it can definitely be treated and need not interfere with an animals quality of life. With diabetes the pets body has trouble processing or using insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas which helps turn sugar into energy. With diabetes, the body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. This causes sugar levels in the blood to be adbnormally high, however this sugar cannot be coverted by the bodies cells into energy.

Types of Diabetes

There are two different types of diabetes mellitus:  Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.  With type 1 diabetes, often called juvenile diabetes, your pet will need regular insulin shots in order to regulate his blood sugar levels.  Most dogs that are diabetic have type 1 diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes does not require regular insulin injections.  Instead, it is controlled primarily through weight loss, a controlled diet, and oral medication.  Pets with type 2 diabetes are generally overweight, but the tendency to develop the disease is inherited.  Cats are susceptible to both forms of diabetes.

The Damaging Effects of Diabetes

Increased blood sugar has tissue damaging effects. A number of cells are most vunerable to damage. Cells affected the most include cells lining the capillaries in the retina, nerve cells and cells in the kidney.  As a result, the nerves, blood vessels, heart, eyes, and kidneys can all be damaged.  Possible problems caused by this damage include cataracts, nerve deterioration, gangrene, paralysis, kidney disease, and even blindness.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Symptoms of diabetes may develope over time so may not be noticed until quite advanced. The most common symptoms include weight loss and excessive water consumption. Some pets are ravenous and may eat up to three times the normal amount. In dogs blindness and catarcts may be seen, while in cats a common symptom is hind leg weakness and lameness. In advanced cases pets may stop eating and quickly become dehydrated.

The Diabetic Coma

One unfortunate potential side effect of diabetes is a diabetic coma.  This results when the cells get too little sugar.  Treating your pet with insulin in order to regulate his diabetes can lead to a coma if the dosage is not correct. Too much insulin will cause your pet’s blood sugar levels to fall drastically.  If the levels fall too far, your pet’s brain will be unable to receive the sugar it needs in order to properly function and can lead to a coma.  To treat a diabetic coma, your pet needs to have sugar.  Administer corn syrup or honey by rubbing it into the gums and seek veterinary treatment immediately.

Treatment of Diabetes

Treatment involves diet modification, oral medications or insulin injections. Diet modification in cats is often the only treatment necessary. A good quality low carbohydrate diet reduces the amount of insulin that an animal needs and keeps blood sugar levels stable. Both short acting and long acting insulin is used to control diabetes in animals. A treatment plan is formulated by a vetreinarian to first regulate the pet's blood glucose and then maintain it within an appropriate range. Blood glucose levels are tested at home using a glucometer and the dosage of insulin is modified to the appropriate level.

Pets with diabetes need to be monitored closely by a veterinarian to ensure they are receiving the proper care and diet.  A pet with diabetes can, however, still live a long and otherwise healthy life.