Pet Care Advice

Diabetes Mellitus in dogs and cats

What is it?

Diabetes Mellitus is a condition caused when either the pancreas stops producing insulin (Type 1 Diabetes), or when the body no longer responds in the normal way to insulin (Type 2 Diabetes). Insulin is a hormone which is produced when food is eaten. It tells the cells of the body to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, which they then use as fuel to perform their functions. When the cells do not receive an insulin signal to absorb glucose, the glucose stays in the bloodstream, and the cells cannot function properly. Type 1 Diabetes is more common in dogs, and Type 2 more common in cats. Type 2 diabetes is sometimes known as weight dependent diabetes, as it normally occurs in overweight animals, and sometimes will resolve when the animal loses weight.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms are gradual in onset - excessive drinking, increased urination, increased appetite and weight loss. Other signs can include urine infections, cataracts, weakness, and occasionally very serious signs like vomiting and collapse. Affected animals occasionally also get breath that smells like pear drops. This is a potentially very serious complication called ketoacidotic diabetes.

It is your job as pet owners to look out for any of these symptoms, and to take your pet to a vet if you are suspicious that your pet has any of them.

How do we diagnose Diabetes?

By taking blood and urine samples and testing these for high glucose levels though it’s not always that easy for two reasons. Firstly, because blood glucose levels, particularly in cats, can increase for other reasons such as when the animal is stressed. This is not uncommon during visits to the veterinary surgery! Secondly, because animals that develop diabetes are often middle or old aged, and may therefore have other conditions that complicate the diagnosis. For this reason, we often have to do other tests as well, to look at kidney and liver function for example.

How do we treat the condition?

The treatment depends on the animal, on the type of diabetes that they have, and on any other conditions they may suffer from. If it is type 1 diabetes, then normally the animal will be given insulin therapy - where their owner will inject them 1 or 2 times a day at home with synthetic insulin, just like a person would with diabetes. If it is type 2 Diabetes, then sometimes this can be controlled with diet, or with oral medication, although even animals with type 2 diabetes normally start off with insulin injections initially. Weight loss is always an important part of treatment too.

Many animals live a full and normal life with diabetes, although they do all need regular monitoring as their treatment regime may have to be altered regularly to be fully effective.

Peace of Mind Pet Care can provide you with veterinary qualified pet carers who are experienced at administering insulin injections.