Typically, dogs are affected with insulin dependent diabetes. The cells of the pancreas are damaged and can no longer make insulin. To control the disease, insulin must be given. Cats can have either insulin dependent or non-insulin dependent diabetes. With the non-insulin dependent type, cells in the body fail to properly respond to insulin. Insulin injections may be necessary.
Signs of diabetes are very similar in cats, dogs and humans. The majority of the animals have a history of being obese or at least overweight. Other signs include recent weight loss, drinking water more often, urinating larger amounts and more frequently, and having accidents in the house. The animal also appears generally unwell. Poor appetite and weight loss are linked to a lack of regulation of metabolic processes that deal with glucose, fat and proteins. These metabolic problems can all cause lethargy, lack of coordination, and weakness in cats and dogs. Excessive thirst and passing more urine are tied to the high concentration of glucose in the bloodstream, which pours out into the urine to dilute the sugar. As a result, the most common sign in cats is larger, heavier clumps in the litter box. In dogs, the most common sign is accidents in the house.
More advanced cases of diabetes in cats can also show as diabetic neuropathy. Normally, cats walk on their toes. Instead, the cat seems to walk like a kangaroo, with the hock (ankle) flat against the ground. A common sign of advanced or long-standing diabetes in dogs is a bluish cast to the eyes. A cataract may appear in one or both eyes.
Regardless of the type of diabetes, initial treatment likely involves giving the pet insulin. Many different kinds of insulin are available. The type of insulin, number of times a day it is given, and adjustments to the dose should all be determined with a veterinarian’s supervision. Most doctors recommend a change in diet and exercise for the pet. This attempts to better regulate daily changes in blood glucose.
Most dogs will require insulin twice a day. They also need close monitoring of what and when they eat. With cats, it may be possible to regulate diabetes with diet and weight-loss alone. Special food and close monitoring are required. In newly diagnosed cats, it is now possible to induce a remission. With administration of specific insulin, complemented by specific foods and exercise to reduce excessive body weight, they will have few or no symptoms of their diabetes.
Many vets also recommend monitoring a pet’s glucose levels at home, where the pet is less stressed. This may result in more accurate readings. Cats are particularly likely to have a glucose spike in a hospital setting due to stress. When appropriate, urine testing can also be done at home to monitor glucose levels. Keeping good records of home testing of your pet’s glucose levels can make a huge difference. This information helps your vet improve the regulation of your pet’s glucose level. If diabetes is not regulated well, your pet will typically suffer more complications as the disease progresses.
Controlling the diabetes gives pets a much better chance at better health and a longer, more normal life.
If you notice that something seems off, have your pet seen by a vet. A thorough physical examination will be done. Your observations provide key information in diagnosing the cause of your pet’s illness. The veterinarian will likely want to do some blood and urine tests to get an accurate diagnosis.
Ask questions. It is important that you are comfortable, know what needs to be done, and understand what to do if you think that your pet is not responding properly. If you have any doubts at all, call your vet or the nearest veterinary emergency hospital for advice.