Diabetes is one of the most common hormonal diseases affecting both dogs and cats as they age. The symptoms of diabetes in pets include increased thirst and appetite, increased urination, and weight loss. Most times these symptoms will develop gradually, but they can occur very suddenly in some unlucky pets. Cataracts, or a cloudy grey appearance to the eyes, can also develop quickly, and can pose a permanent threat to your pet’s vision unless the diabetes is diagnosed and treated quickly.
The underlying cause for diabetes is a decrease in the amount of insulin being produced by the pancreas. Because insulin keeps our blood sugar under control, a decrease in insulin means an increase in blood sugar. This extra blood sugar creates a series of problems for our bodies, resulting not only in the above symptoms but also causing weakness, liver and kidney problems, poor immune defense and healing, and sometimes even death.
Fortunately, the diagnosis of diabetes is usually very easy with the sophisticated laboratory equipment we have at Cambria Veterinary Clinic.
Once your pet is diagnosed as being diabetic, we will discuss your treatment options with you. Most pets will require insulin injections once to twice daily for the rest of their lives to keep their blood sugar at normal levels. We will select the best type of insulin for your individual pet, and show you how to give the injections at home. Don’t worry– they are very small injections, and most pets don’t even know that you’ve given them the shot!!
The other part of having a diabetic pet in the family is that keeping a regular schedule will simplify their treatment. You’ll want to be very consistent in the timing of your insulin injections and your pet’s exercise patterns. Likewise, most diabetic pets will benefit from being fed ONLY a high fiber diet such as Hill’s W/D, and minimizing their treats. Some lucky cats can be maintained without insulin injections by feeding them only a special diet for diabetic cats.
Another important thing to understand is that the body’s ability to use insulin can be altered by the presence of infections or other health problems. Even the presence of one bad tooth in your pet’s mouth, for instance, can make their diabetic control much more difficult. A large part of successfully treating diabetes is keeping the REST of your pet as healthy as possible, and at Cambria Veterinary Clinic we will help you do just that.
One easy way for us all to tell how well your pet’s diabetes has been regulated is very simple– their weight. If their diabetes is not adequately controlled, they will be losing weight. If their insulin levels are adequate for their diabetes, your pet’s weight will be stable.
After beginning your pet on therapy for 7-10 days, we will ask you to bring them back in for a few hours after you have given them their morning insulin dose. During their stay with us we will draw their blood every 90-120 minutes and test their blood sugar each time. This will enable us to find the ideal dose of insulin for your particular pet.
Whenever you have a diabetic individual– pet or human– in the family, it is a very good idea to have a source of readily-absorbable sugar around. This is because an accidental overdose with insulin can create abnormally low blood sugar, causing very sudden weakness and sometimes even seizures. We recommend that you keep a bottle of Karo syrup in your pantry, just in case. If you see your pet staggering or twitching after having been given an insulin injection, you can gob some of the syrup on your fingers and rub it onto their gums and inner cheeks to help return their sugar levels to normal.
After your pet’s insulin dose is “fine tuned”, we will typically ask that you bring them in 3-4x a year for blood and urine samples. This is important because some pet’s insulin requirements will change over time, and because the most common side effect of diabetes– even in well-regulated pets– is the development of urinary tract infections. One of the blood tests we’ll use is a test called a fructosamine assay, which will tell us whether your pet’s sugar metabolism has been normal over the preceding 3-4 weeks. At the same time we’ll want to check their overall health status with a comprehensive physical examination.
Many pet owners can do a GREAT job of monitoring their pet’s insulin dosage at home. How? By checking the sugar levels in their pet’s urine with a plastic dipstick. Of course, it’s easier with dogs than with a cat, but we even have some non-absorbable kitty litter that can solve the litter box problem. Just replace your cat’s normal litter with our special litter, and it’s a piece of cake.
At Cambria Veterinary Clinic, we will help both you and your diabetic pet– because NOTHING is more important to us than your pet’s health. We promise.