Diabetes mellitus (or sugar diabetes) is a complex disease affecting both humans and animals. Diabetes results in the failure of the body to regulate blood sugar.
In a healthy dog or cat, cells in the pancreas called "beta cells" produce the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for regulating blood sugar. In animals with diabetes, there is complete destruction or a reduction in the number of beta cells and therefore insulin, or resistance of body tissues to insulin. This results in unregulated blood sugar and the condition known as hyperglycaemia, or high blood sugar.
Symptoms of diabetes
The main symptoms of diabetes include:
Increased thirst/water consumption
Weight loss (despite increased appetite)
How is diabetes treated?
The treatment of diabetes is dependent on the severity of the condition and several other factors. As diabetes is a complex disease which affects each animal differently, a specific treatment protocol must be created for each animal.
The mainstay of treatment involves the injection of insulin each day. This is often used in conjunction with lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise and special diets.
If insulin is required, your veterinarian will show you how to administer the injection and discuss its proper storage. In some animals (particularly dogs), treatment may be life-long. In some cats, remission is possible. In few cases, cats may be managed with a special diet alone.
I have started treatment, now what?
Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels is important in the long-term treatment of diabetes. Six monthly to yearly glucose testing in hospital is recommended. Some patients may require more frequent testing at home. In the early stages, frequent testing may be required in order to determine the appropriate dose of insulin.
It is important that insulin is given at the same time every day, and the animal is fed at the same time every day.
With commitment, the prognosis for diabetic patients is good.
If you have any concerns, or would like more information, please contact your nearest Vets4Pets hospital.