Have you noticed Miss Fluffy spending a lot of time at the water bowl lately? She seems like she might be a little thinner too… could that just be age? When we as veterinarians hear things like this, our “Spidey-Senses” perk up and our minds start running through the possibilities. One such possibility for a senior dog or cat is diabetes mellitus, often just referred to as “diabetes”.
Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the insulin hormone produced by the pancreas (located in your abdomen near the stomach) is no longer able to meet the needs of the body to control blood sugar. When you eat a meal, the carbohydrates from the food get converted into glucose (blood sugar) which needs to be processed or stored. Without insulin, this blood sugar has nowhere to go, and its accumulation will have a number of detrimental effects on the body. Affected individuals typically have a dramatic increase in thirst, urinations, and appetite, and will often lose weight (in an unhealthy way) and have a dull, oily coat. If undetected long enough, patients can become quite sick with vomiting, dehydration, or worse.
In order to diagnose diabetes mellitus, we perform a blood and urine profile. This allows us to confirm the diagnosis, as well as ruling out conditions with similar symptoms such as urinary infections and hyperthyroidism, and to determine the extent of disease. Once diagnosed, we will discuss a treatment plan that will work the best for your family.
A good diet is a very important part of therapy, as diabetic patients cannot handle large amounts of carbs. Some lucky patients (usually cats who are at a mild stage of diabetes) can be controlled entirely through proper nutrition. Most of our diabetic dogs and cats however will require insulin injections in order to manage their blood sugar. Administering insulin injections seems like a daunting task at first, but I’ve talked with numerous clients who tell me that after the 2nd or 3rd injection, it is almost as routine as brushing your teeth. The needles used are actually much smaller than the tiny ones we use to give vaccines to puppies or kittens, and they rarely seem to mind!
If you’re concerned that one of your pets may be diabetic, we would be happy to help. Just give our office a call, and we’ll answer any questions or concerns you might have and ensure we keep Miss Fluffy healthy and happy for years to come!
Jeremy Blankenship, DVM
Stow Kent Animal Hospital