Diabetes in Pets
Diabetes is a chronic endocrine disorder that is characterized by high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), caused when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to meet the animal’s requirements. Insulin is a hormone, which is needed to transport glucose (blood sugar) into cells in the body. When a lack of insulin occurs, glucose cannot move into cells, and the glucose level in the blood rises to abnormally high levels.
Typical signs of diabetes in pets are excessive drinking, excessive urination, increased hunger or appetite, weight loss and/or weakness.
The treatment for diabetes in pets is two-fold. First, your pet will require a change in diet. By offering a high fiber, high protein, low carbohydrate food source, the blood sugar in the body can be maintained at a steady level. High carbohydrate foods cause the blood sugar to spike requiring a higher demand for insulin. The best commercial diets available are Hill’s prescription M/D diet for cats and Purina prescription diet DM for cats and dogs. Canned food is also the preferred option for cats due to its higher protein content. Some cats are able to revert back to being non-diabetic with only a diet change. Second, most animals will require insulin. There are many different types of insulin, and depending on your pet’s needs, a certain type will be prescribed.
- A doctor or technician will demonstrate how to give the insulin. It is important to always make sure that your pet has eaten prior to giving an insulin injection.
- Recheck with your doctor in one week for a “spot” glucose check, 4-6 hours after the morning insulin is given. Your pet will also be re-weighed.
- It is recommended to purchase Keto-Diastix at your local pharmacy. These are special urine dipsticks made for human diabetics, which measure the amount of glucose in the urine and can detect the presence of ketones. If the strips detect ketones in your pet’s urine, it can be a very bad sign, and your veterinarian should be notified immediately. Dip the urine once every few days when you first start giving your pet insulin.
- Monitor your pet’s water consumption and urination. An increase in both drinking and urination are signs that your pet may not yet be regulated on their insulin.
- Call your veterinarian with any questions during the first few weeks of starting insulin. It is important to keep your veterinarian updated on any changes or issues your pet may be having.
Medical Progress Examination
Every individual pet will have different insulin requirements prescribed by your veterinarian. The initial dose selected is simply a starting point, as it will take one to three weeks for your pet to adjust to the insulin dose and then stabilize. After this time, your pet returns to the hospital for a glucose curve, where your pet’s blood glucose is monitored every two hours for an entire day. The glucose curve tells us how long the insulin is lasting, and when its peak activity is occurring. Based on these results, your veterinarian may change the dosage of insulin your pet is getting to be sure that they are receiving the proper dose. We can teach you how to perform a glucose curve at home if you prefer, and can even send you home with all of the necessary tools to do so.
Insulin Shock / Hypoglycemia
When the insulin dose is too high relative to your pet’s activity or appetite, it is possible for a dangerous level of hypoglycemia to occur. If this were to happen, your pet will become groggy, listless, cold, and may seem uncoordinated or drunken. First aid at home can be life-saving. If this were to happen:
- Immediately offer your pet food
- If your pet will not eat, you will need to give sugar. The easiest way to do this is with Karo syrup, which can be purchased at your local supermarket. Spoon some syrup into your pet’s mouth or apply some onto the gums. It is not necessary to make your pet swallow the syrup since the sugars present in the syrup are absorbed directly through the mucous membranes in the mouth.
- Call your veterinarian immediately, or bring your pet immediately to the hospital. Do not give more insulin until you talk with your veterinarian.
For more information on diabetes, as well as instructional videos, visit: http://www.alphatrakmeter.com/index.html
If you are concerned that your pet is exhibiting any signs or symptoms of diabetes, please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. The information provided here is for educational purposes only. Any treatment plan for your pet should be made on an individual basis between you and your veterinarian.