We’ve talked before about diabetes, but now I want to talk a little more about the different types of diabetes that affect dogs and cats.
Diabetes is a medical condition of both cats and dogs, and it results from a lack of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It has many jobs, but one key job is the transport of glucose into the cells of the body. Without insulin, the cells in the body (be it feline, canine, or human) cannot use glucose, which is key to proper cell function. Glucose is food to our cells.
When there isn’t enough insulin to transport glucose into cells, glucose builds up in the blood. Overtime, the kidneys become overwhelmed and allow glucose to spill over into the urine. This draws water into the urine, causing increased amounts of urine and therefore increased thirst to keep up with urinary water loss.
Though glucose is present in the blood in great numbers, the body cannot detect it and is tricked into thinking that it is starving. In response, the body starts to break down protein and fat for use, as it would during times of actual starvation. This leads to both an increased appetite and weight loss.
Dogs and cats with diabetes will do an awful lot of drinking, urinating, and eating. All the while, they will be losing weight.
There are two types of diabetes, Type I (or insulin dependent) and Type II (or non-insulin dependent).
Type I diabetes is common in dogs and very rare in cats. It results from an absolute lack of insulin due to an autoimmune destruction of the pancreatic cells that make insulin.
Type II diabetes is the most common kind of diabetes in cats. In these cases, there is insulin resistance and sometimes pancreatic cell dysfunction. Type II diabetes is often reversible.
Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose your dog or cat by testing his or her blood glucose. As you’d suspect, pets with diabetes will have abnormally high blood glucose levels. Excess glucose can also be detected in the urine, and pets with diabetes are at risk of developing urinary tract infections because of it, so a urinalysis and urine culture will likely also be done.
Once diagnosed, your pet will be started on insulin therapy, even in the case of non-insulin dependent diabetes. During this time, your pet will need to have his or her blood glucose checked often to ensure a proper insulin dose. Your veterinarian may want to keep your pet in the hospital for a few days during initial insulin treatment to find the proper dosage.
Insulin is given to your pet with a syringe, and while this sounds daunting at first, it will only take a few days to settle into your new role as pet nurse. Your veterinarian and her staff will make sure you are comfortable with the procedure and have no questions before you leave the office with your diabetic pet.
Diet change is especially important in cats with diabetes, as most of these pets suffer from obesity. While dogs with Type I diabetes will be on insulin therapy forever, cats with Type II can go into remission over time if their diet and weight are controlled.
Well, that’s the basics of dog and cat diabetes. Of course, each case is unique, and often our pets don’t read the books on how to have an easily treated case of diabetes. If you have a diabetic dog or cat, feel free to briefly share your experiences in our comment section. Since diagnosis, has treating your pet’s diabetes been easier or harder than you thought it would be?