|Diabetes in Dogs|
Diabetes Mellitus can affect cats, dogs and humans. It can be a debilitating disease if left untreated; managing it can be a challenge! Imagine having to chase around your cat and dog on a daily basis because they did not like their shots, and who can blame them. Once an effective treatment for this disease is established cats and dogs can go onto live long, healthy and practically normal lives.
When most people think of diabetes, they think of diabetes mellitus. This is a common disease that is very easy to diagnose in both cats and dogs, but can sometimes prove difficult to manage.
Diabetes Mellitus Type I is a condition in which not enough insulin is released by the pancreas, so glucose cannot be utilized by cells for energy. Insulin acts as a transporter to carry glucose into cells. An insulin deficiency means the glucose stays in the blood instead of passing into the cells. This usually occurs when the beta cells (the cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin) have been destroyed. If enough glucose builds up in the blood, glucose will eventually start coming out in the urine, causing your cat or dog to drink large amounts of water and to urinate excessively.
There is also a Type II Diabetes Mellitus that occurs when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and/or the beta cells of the pancreas are dysfunctional. Obese patients are particularly susceptible to this type of diabetes.
Dogs and cats develop diabetes mellitus for many reasons. Dogs can get it because of immune mediated disease in which the dog's own antibodies attack and kill the pancreatic beta cells. Cats often get the disease from the accumulation of a special kind of protein around the beta cells. Both dogs and cats can develop the disease because of inflammation of the pancreas (called pancreatitis), hereditary defects of the pancreatic beta cells, obesity, other illnesses, and infections. All dogs that develop diabetes must be supplemented with insulin. For around a third of all cats with diabetes, the disease may be managed through other means, such as dietary changes.
Excessive urination and water consumption are probably the most well known features that accompany all forms of the disease. Other signs of diabetes mellitus include a ravenous appetite and weight loss in spite of excessive food consumption. Because the cells of the body are not receiving nutrients, the animal is really in a state of starvation, so the brain sends signals to the animal's body to tell it that it is very hungry. In the meantime, the body begins to break down its own resources to survive (i.e. muscle and fat) and weight loss ensues.
Another problem associated with diabetes is cataracts, which can develop because hyperglycemia (excess glucose in the blood) can cause water to accumulate in the lens of the eye, causing swelling and disruption of the fibers of the lens. This process is irreversible and can lead to blindness within a matter of days in more severe cases.
Diabetic patients are also predisposed to urinary infections because the excess glucose in the urine may cause bacteria to grow more readily.
Diagnosis of this disease is made through observing the signs of the disease, detecting excess glucose in the blood, even when the animal has not eaten anything, and noting glucose in the urine. These lab results are easily obtained and can give a quick and definitive diagnosis.
The goal of treatment of the diabetic patient is to reduce the clinical signs and to prevent any complications of the disease. Sometimes successful treatment of diabetes can be as simple as feeding a high fiber diet and controlling the animal’s weight.
When insulin is required to control the diabetes, it can sometimes be difficult to determine the right amount to give. If too much is given, then the animal may become hypoglycemic (too little glucose in the blood), which could have life-threatening effects. If too little is given, the diabetes will remain uncontrolled. The only way to accurately determine the correct level of insulin is to feed the animal, give the insulin and then take blood samples every two hours until the level of glucose in the blood peaks and goes back down as the insulin has its effect. This is called a glucose curve. This can prove to be frustrating and time consuming in the first instance but it is really the only accurate way to tell if the insulin is working as it should.
If you suspect that your pet may be diabetic or you have more questions regarding diabetes mellitus, please contact your local veterinarian.
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