November is Diabetes awareness month. Diabetes (Diabetes mellitus) is a common endocrine disorder in all mammals (dogs and cats included). Diabetes is characterized by a dysfunction of insulin production, leading to high blood glucose (blood sugar) levels.
There are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is what human children get, an irreversible destruction of the cells of the pancreas that create insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the type most common in human adults, causing an insulin sensitivity problem. Type 2 diabetics can potentially go into remission.
In general, dogs get Type 1 Diabetes and cats get Type 2 diabetes. Both dogs and cats can acquire diabetes at any age, but middle aged to older pets are at increased risk.
Risk Factors for Diabetes:
- CATS: Being overweight, High Carbohydrate diet
- DOGS: Being a Miniature Schnauzer or Miniature Poodle
It is important to know the signs of diabetes in your pet. Early diagnosis can prevent complications.
Signs of Diabetes to Watch Out For:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Weight Loss with a good appetite
- Cataracts (DOGS)
- Hindlimb weakness
If your pet is showing signs of diabetes, your veterinarian will want to run bloodwork to confirm the diagnosis and rule out diseases that can mimic diabetes, such as kidney disease.
After your pet is diagnosed, your veterinarian will go over a treatment plan for you and your pet. Every pet is different, but for many pets, once to twice daily insulin injections and diet changes can keep their blood sugar well regulated for years to come!
If left untreated, diabetes in pets can lead to diabetic neuropathy, chronic kidney disease, increased risk of infection, anesthetic complications, and severe weight loss. If the blood glucose becomes too high, pet may enter a starvation state, where their body begins to make acidic ketones, called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Pets with DKA will become very ill, with vomiting, lethargy, and potentially seizures, coma, and death.
Diabetes can be a very scary diagnosis to receive about your pet. Many pet owners have a human loved one with diabetes, and become afraid for their pet when they think about all of the complications and maintenance that human diabetics go through. While diabetes is a serious condition, it is far easier to manage diabetes in pets than it is in humans. Although we all wished our pets lived forever, the average pet does not live as long as the average human, so many of the complications that human diabetics are afflicted by are less of a worry for our furry friends!
Miss Lucille McGuillicuddy (pictured above) has been kicking diabetes in the butt for the past 4 years! With two injections a day of Vetsulin, she lives a full quality of life, doing all of her favorite things, such as napping in bed and terrorizing her housemates!