Detecting the warning signs and devising a strategy for dealing with the disease
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a disease that affects dogs and cats as well as humans. It is an insulin disorder originating in the pancreas. Either there is not enough insulin produced, or the cells of the body stop responding to the insulin that is being produced.
Insulin is needed for cells to be able to take in and use glucose, the fuel that comes from carbohydrates. All of the body tissues except the brain, liver, and red blood cells need insulin to absorb glucose.
Muscle cells especially rely on glucose as a source of energy to keep working. If there is not enough insulin being made or the cells do not respond to it, then glucose levels in the bloodstream rise.
Elevated blood sugar in dogs and cats has many warning signs. An increase in appetite combined with weight loss—especially in a formerly obese pet—is common. Excessive thirst and high urine output are also often seen.
Pets will tire easily as their muscles run out of fuel quickly and cannot replace it with more glucose from the bloodstream. Cats in advanced DM can start walking on their hocks as the high sugars lead to nerve damage.
This “bankruptcy” of the pancreas and its insulin is not just an old-age problem, though older pets are more at risk. Just as in humans, obesity can play a role in DM, especially in cats.
Treatment for dogs and cats often requires insulin as a twice-daily injection beneath the skin. Diet must also be controlled, and there are special foods now available to help optimize carbohydrate usage. Just like in humans, home blood sugar checks provide better information in a non-stressed setting.
Pets and their owners learn to tolerate injections well and can have long, comfortable lives with DM. Learn as much as you can, and ask your veterinarian for extra resources as well.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net. It was honored as the 2015 Small Business of the Year by the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry.