“Pour Some Sugar On Me” or Diabetes in Pets
“My dog won’t stop drinking water,” says one client. “My cat is peeing all over the house!” says another. “My dog isn’t eating much; and he NEVER turns down food,” says yet another. “Kitty vomits everyday and it’s been going on for a few weeks now,” is another statement I’ve heard. So which disease is it? Yes, you can name a bunch of diseases that sound like this. This is where blood & urine tests are necessary to determine how the best way to help your pet is.
It’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of the one disease that made me the person I am today (but that’s a separate post). This is why I’m choosing to start with diabetes mellitus as the first of the chronic or older age diseases. However, there won’t be anyway to cover it all in this post so I’ll revisit it later with regards to certain sub-topics. I’m also going to try to keep this easy to understand and not get into too much of the science behind it all.
Cats & dogs can both become diabetics and they can both present similarly. Most patients will first be noted to be urinating more, especially with accidents in the house. They will all also drink more and probably eat a little less. Some astute owners will notice weight loss, especially if their cat was obese before as excessive weight is a risk factor for developing diabetes. Other signs you might see can include dehydration, weakness, abnormal walking (specifically diabetic neuropathy), and a change in their breath.
Diabetics have either become resistant to the insulin the body produces or the pancreas stops producing insulin in sufficient quantities. Insulin is necessary for the body to break down glucose in order for it be utilized by the body. So why are these pets losing weight and urinating all over the place? When the body can’t break down the glucose your body ingests or produces, it starts to utilize the fat and muscle tissue already there for energy and this leads to the weight loss and muscle wasting you can see. As the body becomes diabetic, the blood glucose levels will rise due to decreased uptake. When it reaches a certain level, it will start dumping this extra glucose into the urine where this sugar sits in there and creates a nice breeding ground for bacteria creating a urinary tract infection. Along with the increased water intake, this makes your pet urinate more.
To diagnose your cat or dog as diabetic, your vet will need to do a blood test to check for high levels of glucose. We are also looking for changes in electrolytes and liver values. Additionally, a urinalysis is recommended to check for an infection as well as ketones. What are ketones you ask? Ketones are the product we see in the urine from the body breaking down fat to use for energy but more is produced than can be used and this leads to an acidic state in the blood and leads to the increased urination. This will cause some patients to become severely ill and present in a semi-comatose state, they may be jaundiced, have abdominal pain, or trouble breathing. In my experience, I’ve seen more cats than dogs present this way. A noticeable acetone smell may also be noted on their breath.
Fortunately, many cats and dogs do not present to us in this advanced state and even if they are, they can be helped. If there are no ketones in the urine, this is ideal in terms of treatment but still not always an easy fix. This is the reason that having your pets’ blood tested at least once a year once they reach a senior age. Early detection is the key to keeping your pets healthy and happy for many years. So those are the basics of diabetes in cats & dogs. I know I don’t have everything here but we could spend hours discussing all the intricacies of diabetes mellitus. I’ll be discussing treatment in the next post so be sure to check back and in the meantime, share to help inform your friends and get your senior pets checked out in general!
Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.
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