It is usually fairly clear from the medical history and blood tests showing dramatic glucose elevations in the blood (and usually glucose in the urine, too) that diabetes mellitus is the diagnosis. Some pets are able to substantially raise their blood sugar from stress (this might occur when a sensitive, sick, or anxious patient goes to the veterinary hospital). Sometimes these situations could create misleading test results. If there is any question about the diagnosis, additional tests may be requested. For example, a Fructosamine level reflects an average blood glucose level over the past several weeks so if this is also elevated, a one-time elevated glucose can be distinguished from the persistent elevations of true diabetes mellitus. A fructosamine level is sometimes used in monitoring therapy for diabetes mellitus.
In dogs, sugars can enter the lens of the eye causing rapid cataract formation. Because a cat's lens is different, this phenomenon primarily occurs in dogs.
Another common symptom of diabetes mellitus is urinary tract infection. All the sugar in the urine makes the bladder an excellent incubator for bacteria. Antibiotics are necessary to clear up such an infection and some monitoring may be needed to help detect these infections.
The main clinical signs of diabetes mellitus are:
Type I and Type II Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes mellitus is a classical disease in humans and most of us have heard some of the terms used to describe it. In humans, diabetes is broken down into two forms: Type I and Type II. These are also referred to as juvenile onset and adult onset diabetes, or insulin dependent and non-insulin dependent diabetes. In short, Type 1 is the type where the pancreas produces no insulin at all, and in Type 2 the pancreas produces some insulin but not enough. Virtually all dogs have insulin dependent diabetes and must be treated with insulin. Most cats have non-insulin dependent diabetes. This might suggest that most cats can get away without insulin injections but that is not the case at all. Instead, for cats, there is potential for the diabetes to actually resolve if the pancreas improves its insulin-secreting ability. Insulin injections are needed to treat most diabetic cats but for some cats, the situation is mild enough for oral medication to suffice. Good glucose control and proper diet can resolve the diabetes in some lucky cats but virtually never in diabetic dogs.
Once insulin therapy has been initiated, bring your pet in for a re-check exam and glucose curve if your pet:
seems to feel ill
is losing weight
has a ravenous appetite or loses its appetite
seems to be drinking or urinating excessively
becomes disoriented or groggy
has ketones in the urine for three days in a row
Feeding a Diabetic Pet
Regulation is achieved via a balance of diet, exercise, and insulin. Realizing that therapeutic diets are not always attractive to pets, there are some ideal foods which should at least be offered.
The most up-to-date choice for cats is a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. These diets promote weight loss in obese diabetics and are available in both canned and dry formulations. For dogs, high fiber diets are still in favor as fiber seems to help sensitize the pet to insulin. Talk to your veterinarian to select an appropriate choice for your pet.
Avoid soft-moist diets as sugars are used as preservatives. Avoid breads and sweet treats. If it is not possible to change the pet's diet, then regulation will just have to be worked out around whatever the pet will eat.
If you feel your pet is exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned above, please don't hesitate to make an appointment. We will be happy to discuss any other questions or concerns you may have regarding diabetes.