Meet Copy Cat (left) and Seymour (right), two of our feline diabetic patients who happened to be in the hospital on the same day for diabetic monitoring. Just like people, dogs and cats can become diabetic and just like people, dogs and cats can be successfully treated – but not “cured”. Diabetes Mellitus is a disease that is managed as opposed to cured and it takes a very committed and dedicated pet owner to manage a diabetic pet.
When pets are suffering from Diabetes Mellitus (DM) their body either does not produce the hormone insulin or does not produce enough of it to control blood sugar levels. Insulin is necessary for the glucose or sugar circulating in the blood stream to actually get into the cells of most of the different tissues (such as muscle) where it can be used for fuel. In a diabetic patient the body tissues such as muscle literally starve even though there are higher than normal levels of sugar circulating in the blood. Because these tissues are starving , they send out messages that they need more fuel and the body responds by increasing the blood sugar levels (the problem is without insulin, the extra sugar in the blood can’t get into the cells of the tissues that need it). When the blood sugar levels get too high, the pet will be very thirsty, drinking dramatically more water and urinating large volumes frequently. If left untreated, the diabetic pet will dramatically lose weight (despite often eating well) and suffer from many complications such as infections, circulatory, kidney, nerve and vision problems. If further left untreated, diabetic pets will ultimately go into a diabetic crisis and die from the disease. Fortunately we have treatment options available!
The cornerstone of treating diabetic patients is to give them the insulin to replace what their body is not making on its own. Most of the time this involves giving the pets once or twice a day injections of insulin and then monitoring closely to make sure they are eating properly and that their blood sugar levels don’t go too low. Insulin can be given either with the traditional syringe and bottle method or in some cases using an insulin pen. It can take a little while to find the best kind of insulin (there are several different types each of which act a little differently in the body), the right dose and the right timing of the injections. Also, diabetic patients are extremely sensitive to infections or any other problems in the body which can make it very difficult to find a consistent and accurate dose of insulin. When the pet is on a dose, type and regime of insulin that keeps the blood sugar levels in the appropriate range, the pet will feel good, not drink excessively and maintain a stable body weight. We refer to that pet as being a well regulated or controlled diabetic. Pets that receive too much insulin can suffer from low blood sugar levels which can cause behaviour changes, seizures and even death. Diabetic patients must be monitored closely and frequently by both their owner and their veterinarian.
Seymour and Copy Cat are two of our ‘regulars’. They were in for some blood tests and a check up to make sure their diabetes remains well controlled. We are grateful that they have such committed and dedicated owners willing to do what is needed to help their pets continue to enjoy a great quality life!