By Brianna Backlund, DVM, DACVIM
Thursday, November 21, 2013
As the holiday season approaches, thoughts of pumpkin pies, gingerbread houses and sugar plum ferries occupy a lot of our free time. I’ve heard many people joke about going into a diabetic coma after taking in too much sugar. You may not realize that, although it’s not quite as straightforward as that, our canine and feline family members too can have serious consequences from an imbalance in blood sugar levels.
Is your cat or dog drinking a lot of water and urinating more than usual? Is your dog losing weight despite a good appetite or is your cat overweight? If so, then you might take them to your primary care veterinarian for screening for diabetes mellitus. Cats and dogs can also develop diabetes, just as humans can. One in 50 to one in 500 cats have diabetes and one in 100 dogs reaching 12 years of age has diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus results from the body’s cells not being able to use glucose taken in from food or made by the body for energy. This disease can develop due to a variety of underlying causes that can make the disease more complicated, but with uncomplicated diabetes mellitus, its original diagnosis is actually quite straightforward. In order to make the diagnosis, your veterinarian will simply need to collect blood and urine samples for testing with the goal of identifying high blood glucose levels with glucose in the urine. Just like people, diabetic pets often need a diet change as well as injections of insulin to allow glucose to enter the cells and provide them with the needed energy to function. Many of the insulin types used are the same as those used for human diabetics. As you can imagine, it is difficult to manage a human with diabetes. It can be just as difficult, if not more so, to undertake this care for a diabetic dog or cat.
As a general rule, this is a chronic disease condition that can respond well to appropriate insulin injections. If these subtle signs however have gone unnoticed for an extended amount of time, the body can only cope for so long without an appropriate supply of energy to the cells and your pet can develop an emergent condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). When your pet becomes very ill with DKA, they will most likely need to be taken to the ER for hospitalization, monitoring, supportive care, and starting insulin therapy.