Many of us have some knowledge of diabetes. What you may not know, is that it happens to be one of the most common metabolic conditions affecting dogs and cats. Sometimes referred to as ‘sugar diabetes’, it occurs when there is a deficiency or lack of response to the hormone insulin. This results in cells being unable to absorb glucose from the blood stream resulting in increased blood glucose levels.
As patients are unable to make use of their glucose, they instinctively respond by eating more food to make up for this lost energy, only to lose weight in spite of their efforts. As the amount of glucose increases in the blood stream, excess glucose is passed in the urine. This impairs the kidneys’ ability to conserve water by concentrating urine resulting in the need to drink more water to make up for what has been lost. Urine with high levels of glucose causes diabetic patients to develop urinary tract infections with greater frequency and cataracts can often develop in dogs with diabetes.
While many of these symptoms appear somewhat innocuous and go unnoticed much of the time, diabetes can be a time bomb for some pets. Patients gradually use up their protein and fat stores as an alternate energy source. While this works in the short term, severe cases can be fatal.
We can control diabetes in dogs and cats in similar ways to humans. Commonly, insulin injections are required and while this is daunting for many people, it is usually something both patients and pets become accustomed to. Dietary control is also helpful, particularly cats where recent advances in diet and insulin therapy have actually managed to bring many cats into remission of their diabetes, requiring no further treatment with insulin.
By recognising the early warning signs we hope that diabetic patients will receive treatment sooner rather than later. Check if your pets are eating and drinking more than usual. They may be begging more often for food or becoming more audacious at stealing scraps. You may notice that you have to fill the water bowl more often. The average dog should drink no more than 50-100mL of water per kg of body weight every 24 hours and cats no more than 45mL per kg body weight every 24 hours if they eat dry food or 10mL per kg body weight every 24 hours if they eat wet food. If they go to the toilet more often or appear incontinent or if you are changing the litter tray more regularly, this may mean that they are producing more urine than normal. Weight loss should also be checked.
Any of these symptoms are worth checking, not only for diabetes but other similar metabolic conditions. In many cases, a simple and quick blood test can allay any fears you may have. Even if you are unsure whether or not your pet needs a visit, you are always welcome to discuss any concerns you may have over the phone on 3202 7300.
Asher Dessaix from Anstead Veterinary Practice