Nov 09 2014

All About Diabetes in Cats and Dogs


Diabetes is a well known disease among the human population, but did you know that it can affect both dogs and cats as well? The pancreas is a very important organ, and it must secrete proper levels of hormones in order to properly manage blood sugar levels.  If hormone levels aren’t normal or if the body can’t use the existing insulin properly, then the animal may develop type 1 or type 2 diabetes; depending on the species. In order to live a comfortable life, these affected animals normally need to receive treatment.


It all starts in the Pancreas…

The pancreas is an organ located along the small intestine; this organ helps to maintain normal levels of blood sugar within the body. It is able to do this by releasing a hormone called insulin into the blood stream which makes its way to cells throughout the body. Insulin helps your body’s cells to use and absorb the glucose they receive through the animal’s diet. Without insulin, you can’t survive!

The diabetic pet doesn’t have enough insulin!

Without enough insulin your pet’s cells cannot receive glucose, and the body goes into starvation mode. The reason the body begins to think its starving is because it cannot detect the glucose in the bloodstream. When glucose is undetectable, then fats, proteins and starches begin to break down. Even though there is an excess of glucose in the bloodstream, the body tissues still can’t use it without insulin! On top of not being able to use the glucose, the kidneys also become overwhelmed due to the unnaturally high amounts of glucose within the body. This glucose then enters the urine and is lost, along with important amounts of water which can be drawn into the urine with the glucose.

The symptoms of diabetes begin…

Once the insulin levels are not sufficient, and cells stop being able to use the glucose, many problems can arise. Because of the kidneys producing excess amounts of urine, you may notice your pet needing to pee frequently or in larger amounts than normal.  Furthermore, in order to replace all of these lost fluids, he or she will also develop an insatiable thirst! You may notice him or her around the water bowl much more than normal, or begin to drink from toilets, bathtubs, puddles or other sources of water which may be out of the ordinary for your pet.

Other signs of diabetes in your pet may include: an increase in appetite, a decrease in weight, and higher susceptibility to bladder infections. In dogs, cataracts can also be formed quite rapidly due to sugar entering the lens of the eyes. *This is not common in cats due to differences in the anatomy of the lens.



Types of Diabetes Based on Species:

Dogs: Almost all diabetic dogs have a type of diabetes known as ‘insulin dependent diabetes’. This means that they must be treated with insulin injections in order to control blood sugar levels.

Cats: Cats normally develop non-insulin dependent diabetes. They must still be treated with insulin, but there is a chance that these cats may regain normal pancreatic function in time. Proper glucose control and a specific diet may resolve diabetes in some very lucky cases!


The Treatment:

Your pet will need insulin injections, normally given twice daily. This may sound a bit intimidating to owners at first, but many people become fairly accustomed to administering these shots at home. Your vet or technician will of course demonstrate this technique for you initially, and soon enough it will seem fairly easy to inject the insulin under the skin as you begin to master the technique!

Where do I purchase the insulin?

Insulin is available either through your vet clinic or human pharmacy; this depends on which type of insulin your pet requires. The veterinarian or pharmacist can also supply you with the syringes and needles you will need and be able to teach you how to prepare each dose.

Dose Adjustments:

In the beginning it is difficult to tell how much insulin your pet will need. He or she may need a change in dose depending on how well and how long the insulin seems to be working for your pet. To get an individual dosage, your pet will normally require something called a ‘glucose curve’. This is where your pet has his or her glucose levels checked every 2-4hours for a period of 12 hours (sometimes up to 24 hours). This will help the veterinarian decide whether or not changes need to be made to your pet’s dosage. ..Then your pet will be on their way to feeling great again!

Diet Changes: Part of the Treatment

Just as with diabetic humans animals must also eat carefully!

Cats: The ideal choice of diet for diabetic cats, are diets which are low in carbs and high in proteins.

Dogs: High fibre diets are the best choice for dogs as they help to sensitize your pet to insulin.

*Most veterinary clinics carry specific diets for both cats and dogs who are diabetic!





Difficulties in Regulation:

Sometimes animals need to have their insulin doses changed, and for this reason they should be seen by their veterinarians if there are any concerns. Signs such as: weight loss, excessive appetite or loss of appetite, looking lethargic or ill, seems disoriented or is drinking and peeing excessively are requirements of a visit to the veterinarian.

Some animals may be difficult to regulate if:

– They are receiving other medications, such as steroids.

-Interferences may be caused by hormones, such as progesterone in unspayed females.

-Expired insulin; insulin is good in the refrigerator for 6-8weeks.

-Improper insulin administration

-Insulin may be metabolized quickly in your pet, you may need to switch to a different type of insulin or increase the number of injections throughout the day. *Only change doses or amount of injections under recommendation of your veterinarian.

-Insulin overdose


Insulin Shock:

If your pet accidentally receives too much insulin, they may go into an insulin shock. Your pet may appear wobbly and disoriented, this means that they need to eat or receive sugar ASAP. If they will not eat, then you can help by giving them syrup, sugar water or honey. If there is no improvement in a short period of time, then you need to bring your pet to the veterinary clinic as this is considered an emergency.


Another common cause for not responding well to insulin could be an infection within any organ of the body, such as urinary tract infections or periodontal disease.


Cushing Disease:

This is a disease in which the body produces an abundant amount of steroids. If this is the case, then we have to treat this condition first in order to be able to regulate the diabetes.



Extra Tip!

We recommend you pay careful attention to your diabetic pet’s teeth. This may sound strange but diabetic animals are very prone to infection, and teeth can be a major contributor! When tartar and bacteria accumulate in your pet’s mouth, it also spreads through the bloodstream therefore predisposing your pet to infection. Particular areas which are more vulnerable to infection are the heart and kidneys. By bringing your pet in for a regular dental cleaning, you can help prevent this from happening…and keep bad breath away!

The Jist of it…

Now that you have about read about diabetes in companion animals, it may be easier to understand the process of the disease and the impact it can have on your pet’s body. Understanding the types of diabetes in both cats and dogs, and being aware of the treatment might make you a bit more comfortable in managing this illness in your own pet.  If you have any more questions regarding treatments, symptoms/ signs or complications of diabetes, feel free to contact us! Better yet, drop by our clinic this November 2014 during ‘Pet Diabetes awareness month’ and receive free take home educational materials!

Beth | Uncategorized

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