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Understanding Diabetes in Pets

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes mellitus is caused by an irregularity in the production of a hormone called insulin. Insulin is one of the hormones produced by the pancreas and it regulates the body’s ability to use glucose. Glucose comes from the food that your pet eats and is, in turn, the food for your pet’s cells. Without the proper amount of insulin, the cells cannot take glucose from the bloodstream and pull it into the cells to use for energy. This results in an extreme amount of glucose in the bloodstream, which is eventually excreted in the urine. This large amount of glucose in the blood can also cause cataracts in the eyes of dogs. Because the body’s cells cannot use glucose for energy, they break down protein, starch and fat that the body has stored up, which can make the pet lose weight and act as if it is starving, even if it is eating well.

Some of the main clinical signs of diabetes include:

Excessive drinking

Excessive urination

Excessive or lack of appetite

Weight loss

Acting disoriented or lethargic

How is Diabetes Diagnosed?

Once your veterinarian suspects diabetes as a possible diagnosis, there are two ways the doctor can determine if your pet is, in fact, a diabetic. The first is to test for elevated blood sugar. This requires a very small amount of blood and glucometer (a small machine that quickly gives blood sugar levels). However, because some pets (especially cats) can raise their blood sugar just from the anxiety of being at the vet’s office, a fructosamine level may also be requested. The other quick way to diagnose diabetes is to test the level of glucose in the urine. A diabetic pet will have high levels of glucose in its urine. 

Diabetes Treatment

Once diagnosed with diabetes, it is very important that your pet starts treatment immediately. The initial treatment for diabetes is insulin injections. Your veterinarian will determine an appropriate insulin dose for your pet and explain how it is to be regulated. This generally coincides with regular testing (urine or blood) to make sure that the dosage is accurate. Along with insulin injections, it is usually recommended that the pet’s diet be changed to a diabetic diet (e.g. Hills M/D, Royal Canin Glycobalance or Purina DM).

After some time of insulin injections, it is possible for a cat’s pancreas to improve its insulin-secreting abilities and the cat could become non-insulin dependent. However, diabetes can return without proper diet and medication. In dogs, this phenomenon of becoming non-insulin dependent is not possible. A diabetic dog will require insulin injections for the rest of its life.

For more information on diabetes, or questions or concerns, please feel free to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors today! FBN

By Dr. Jenny Siess

Dr. Jenny Siess was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and moved to Flagstaff in 2003. She enjoys areas of veterinary medicine such a surgery, exotic animal practice, and wellness/disease prevention. Siess currently resides in Flagstaff with her fiancé, four dogs, six cats and ball python.

Westside Veterinary Clinic is located at W. Route 66 Building 2, Suite 230, Flagstaff, Arizona.  86001. For more information, call 928-779-0148.



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