A common disease seen in dogs and cats is diabetes mellitus, or diabetes. The pancreas is a L-shaped gland that sits next to the stomach and part of the small intestines called the duodenum. The pancreas is responsible for producing a number of digestive hormones, such as insulin and glucagon. Insulin is a hormone that helps digest sugar. It is like the “key” to unlock the blood cells, allowing sugar to be used as energy. Diabetes is the lack of or underproduction of insulin.
Without insulin, the sugar keeps circulating in the blood stream but is not available for use as energy, and therefore the body turns to fat stores and even muscles to fuel itself, which can lead to dangerous byproducts called ketones building up in the blood stream. Also, the body is essentially in starvation mode at this point, as all of the food that is being eaten is unable to be used as energy, so the body is breaking down its reserves.
Signs that your pet may have diabetes include weight loss, usually despite a good to increased appetite, increased thirst, and increased urinations. Since these symptoms can also be seen with other serious diseases such as kidney disease or thyroid disorders amongst others, if your pet is exhibiting any of these signs please schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible.
An examination may reveal weight loss and muscle loss, cataract development in the eyes, or other signs which may make diabetes a likely culprit. Likely a blood sample will be taken to look at liver and kidney functions, red and white blood cells, and most importantly a blood glucose or sugar level. A urine sample may be collected to look for signs of ketones or sugar in the urine, as well as signs of an infection. Additional blood work to look at a fructosamine level, which checks the average blood glucose level over the last couple of weeks may be required to get a diagnosis.
If your pet does indeed have an elevated blood sugar, fructosamine, or glucose and/or ketones in the urine, a diagnosis of diabetes will likely be made. Treatment often includes insulin injections and a diet change. Specific treatment plans are formulated on a case by case basis. With proper care, diabetic pets can live long, healthy lives. If you think your pet may have diabetes, please call us today!