Diabetes Mellitus in Our Pets

Diabetes mellitus is a complex metabolic disorder where the body either does not produce enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it produces. When your pet ingests food, a portion is broken down into glucose, which is used by the body for energy. Insulin is required to transport glucose from the blood into cells of the body to be used for energy. Without enough insulin, the body cannot use glucose and thus the cells begin to starve. Glucose builds up in the blood, spills over into the urine and can be toxic to the body.

It is a disease that usually develops in older patients. Female dogs are twice as likely to develop diabetes then male dogs and, in cats, neutered males are more prone. Other risk factors include obesity, chronic pancreatitis, Cushings disease and the use of some drugs including glucocorticoids. Patients with diabetes are also predisposed to developing kidney issues, high blood pressure, cataracts and peripheral neuropathy, which causes weakness.

Some of the more common clinical signs that owners notice include increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite while at the same time loosing weight. Owners may also notice lethargy, blindness, lack of grooming, dull lusterless haircoat, and weakness in the hind end.

There are two types of diabetes that we see in our pets. Type 1 or insulin dependent is characterized by a lack of insulin production by the body and a mandatory need for insulin injections. Type 2 or non-insulin dependent is characterized by an inability of your body to use the insulin it produces and is often called insulin “resistant”. Almost all of our canine patients and the majority of our feline patients develop type 1. A small number of feline patients may develop type 2.

When you or your veterinarian at Mcleans suspects your pet might have diabetes, blood work and a urinalysis can be run to help diagnose the disease. If your pet is diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to receive treatment promptly to prevent potentially fatal complications. A custom treatment plan will be created which may involve insulin injections, a special diet and regular exercise to maintain a lean body weight. It is important to monitor blood glucose weekly until glucose is in control. Glucose Curves are regularly done to evaluate response to treatment and many owners are taught how to do this at home. It can be overwhelming at first and the team at McLean Animal Hospital is here to support you every step of the way to ensure your pet receives the best care possible.

The prognosis of this disease depends on how committed owners are to treating the disease, how the patient responds to treatment, the presence of concurrent diseases and the avoidance of complications. Diabetic dogs and cats that survive the first 6 months can usually maintain a good quality of life longer than 5 years with proper care from the owner and veterinary team at McLeans. If you are concerned, need support or have any questions regarding diabetes, please contact your veterinary team at McLeans.

by Dr. Monica Marshman