Diabetes Mellitus

What is Diabetes Mellitus (DM)?

DM occurs when the pancreas fails to produce or respond to the hormone insulin. Insulin is required by the body to efficiently use sugars, fats and proteins from the diet.

What causes Diabetes mellitus?

DM may occur spontaneously for no obvious reason, however certain factors can increase its incidence:

  • Age – Diabetes is more often seen in middle aged to older dogs and cats.

  • Gender – female dogs appear to be more predisposed than males

  • Hormones – it is not uncommon for female dogs to become transiently diabetic during a season

  • Obesity – Animals that are overweight will be predisposed to developing diabetes mellitus

  • Drugs – certain drugs such as corticosteroids can trigger DM, usually following long term use.

What are the Signs of Diabetes Mellitus:

Without insulin, sugars from the diet accumulate in the blood and spill into the urine. This is often reflected in the clinical signs we recognise in our pets

  • Excessive thirst: sugar in the urine causes the pet to drink lots of water, and pass large amounts of urine.

  • Increased Appetite and weight loss: Appetite is controlled by levels of sugar in the brain. If the brain becomes deprived of sugar our animal may seem constantly hungry, yet may lose weight due to improper use of nutrients from the diet.

  • Untreated diabetic pets are more likely to develop infections and commonly get bladder, kidney, or skin infections.

  • Rapid onset cataract formation are commonly seen in diabetic dogs, and rarely cats

  • Less common signs of diabetes are weakness or abnormal gait due to nerve or muscle dysfunction.

How is it diagnosed?

DM is usually diagnosed by first examining a urine sample to determine if there is glucose in the urine (glucosuria or glycosuria) and/or a urinary tract infection. A simple in house blood sample can then be taken to determine the glucose (sugar concentration) in your pets blood.

How is DM Treated?

There are two different types of DM:

  • Type 1 – seen in nearly all dogs and some cats. This is “classic” diabetes where the pancreas stops producing insulin. Treatment involves supplementing the animal with insulin by daily injections. The dose required to control each animal can vary enormously and so the initial stabilisation phase can be quite time consuming while a correct regime is established.

  • Type II – seen less frequently, and is more common in cats compared with dogs. This type of diabetes is where the animal is producing insulin normally, but the cells in the body stop responding to the hormone. This is usually treated with a combination of diet, weight loss and insulin.

What happens once my Pet has been Diagnosed?

When your pet is diagnosed with DM we will book you in for an extended consultation with one of our nurses. During these consults they will explain various aspects of diabetic pet care, including feeding, correct storage of your insulin, and what to do if your pets glucose drops too low. We will also give you a teaching session on how to measure insulin dosages correctly and how to inject the insulin safely, with minimal discomfort to your pet.

It is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have.

A common concern is that clients may not recognise if there pet is having a hypo/episode of low blood sugar.

If this does happen your pet may become weak and wobbly, and become quite vacant and stare into space. If blood sugar drops very low they may collapse.

What to do if your pet does have a hypo/low blood sugar episodes

If your pet is showing signs of having a hypo it is important to rub a sugary substance such as honey or jam on their gums. If they are conscious and able to swollow some sugar water can be poured directly into their mouth. It is always advisable to seek veterinary advice if there are any concerns of a hypo occurring.

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