Diabetes in Dogs and Cats

By ELIZABETH BENSON

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a condition in which there is a deficiency of, or insensitivity to insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is normally responsible for controlling appropriate levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Glucose is needed for energy and insulin works by moving glucose into the body’s cells where it can be utilized. When insulin is lacking, the blood sugar increases within the blood.

Overweight pets are at greatest risk of developing DM. Dogs and cats typically present to their veterinarian with excessive drinking and urination, an increased appetite in the face of weight loss and sticky sweet smelling urine. Diagnosis is accomplished through a simple blood test and urinalysis.

There are two types of DM: Type 1 and Type 2. Type I diabetes occurs when the pancreas cannot produce insulin. This is the most common form in dogs. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the cells cannot utilize the insulin that is present or the pancreas produces only a very small amount of insulin. This is the most common form in cats. Regardless of the type, all pets will need to start a treatment protocol to manage the disease.

What Symptoms Can Present as the Disease Progresses?

Early Stages:

  • Increased drinking and urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sticky, sweet-smelling urine
  • Bladder infections
  • Dental problems
  • Lethargy

Late Stages:

  • Persistent early stages
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Cataracts/blindness – dogs
  • Organ failure
  • Dehydration
  • Neuropathies in cats
  • Unable to stand

Crisis – Immediate veterinary assistance needed regardless of disease:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Prolonged seizures
  • Uncontrollable vomiting/diarrhea
  • Sudden collapse
  • Profuse bleeding – internal or external
  • Crying/whining from pain*

*It should be noted that most animals will instinctually hide their pain. Vocalization of any sort that is out of the ordinary for your pet may indicate that their pain and anxiety have become too much for them to bear. If your pet vocalizes due to pain or anxiety, please consult with your tending veterinarian immediately.

Common Signs of Pain

Panting, lameness, difficulty sleeping, pacing, abnormal posture, body tensing, poor grooming habits, tucked tail, dilated pupils, licking sore spot, muscle atrophy, decreased appetite, vocalizing/yowling, reclusive behavior, aggressive behavior, avoiding stairs/jumping, depressed, unable to stand.

How Is Diabetes Mellitus Treated?

Insulin administration is the most common treatment for diabetes. It may be a once or twice daily injection under the skin. Glucose levels need to be closely monitored, especially early in the treatment to determine the proper dose of insulin. Too much insulin will lead to hypoglycemia (low glucose) and inadequate amounts will keep glucose higher than ideal. Both low and high blood glucose have particular symptoms to watch for.

Along with injectable insulin, there are oral medications that work in some cats helping to stimulate insulin production by the pancreas as well as improve the cell’s insulin receptiveness. Diet is also important for both dogs and cats to help regulate glucose levels. High protein diets work to maintain proper body weight and keep blood glucose levels lower.

What Is the Prognosis for Diabetes Mellitus?

If glucose levels can be regulated and remain stabilized, your pet can live many happy, quality years. When regulation becomes difficult due to resistance to insulin, concurrent disease, etc. the disease will ultimately shorten your pet’s life.

If glucose levels remain high, your pet may develop a condition called ketoacidosis in an effort to produce the energy needed to survive. Ketoacidosis is fatal if left untreated.

A personalized treatment plan is important to slow the progression of diabetes. Talk to your veterinarian regarding the best treatment protocol for your pet.

Testimonials

I can't recommend them enough. I had to say goodbye to my 21 year old cat companion. I read the reviews here on Yelp and chose Paws Into Grace and they made an unbearable situation not worse - from the people on the phone to the amazing doctor who... read more

Renee C.

My absolute love Dante had heart failure three months ago. After having him on many medications to help him, his enthusiasm and appetite declined last couple of days. He was in pain and we decided to help him go to heaven rather than torturing him... read more

Diane C.

I wanted to thank you for sending Dr. Brown to euthanize our beloved Myleigh on March 4, 2021. She was compassionate and accommodating, she explained every step of the procedure, and gave us some alone time with Myleigh after she sedated her, but... read more

Terry A.

Renee C.

I can't recommend them enough. I had to say goodbye to my 21 year old cat companion. I read the reviews here on Yelp and chose Paws Into Grace and they made an unbearable situation not worse - from the people on the phone to the amazing doctor who came out to the house. She was so understanding and supportive. They were all so helpful, understanding and nice. My girl got to stay at home and say goodbye in the backyard (a hummingbird flew over and it seemed like a good sign too). So glad I didn't have to take her to a cold vet office.

Diane C.

My absolute love Dante had heart failure three months ago. After having him on many medications to help him, his enthusiasm and appetite declined last couple of days. He was in pain and we decided to help him go to heaven rather than torturing him with more medications which would make him even more miserable. I called and spoke to a very kind lady who was patient as I cried through making an appointment. We made an appointment for 1:30pm. Dr. Toni arrived. She was very kind, explained everything to us and gave us the time to be with our boy after the first shot. He wasn't relaxing enough so she gave him a second shot. We stayed with him throughout the entire process and I carried him to her car in the end. It was a very difficult decision but knowing that our boy is not in pain, gives us some peace. We are thankful to Dr. Toni for her kindness and compassion. They will arrange the cremation for us. Since we are in a pandemic, we had our masks on and said goodbye to our boy in our garden.

Terry A.

I wanted to thank you for sending Dr. Brown to euthanize our beloved Myleigh on March 4, 2021. She was compassionate and accommodating, she explained every step of the procedure, and gave us some alone time with Myleigh after she sedated her, but before she attached the IV. We were relieved that we made the decision to let her go to doggy heaven at home. It was a tranquil and serene passing for her, and it very much aids us in the grieving and healing process knowing that she passed away so peacefully. Based on the grace and compassion Dr. Brown demonstrated on one of the most awful days of our lives we would not hesitate to recommend Paws Into Grace for others facing this very painful time.
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