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Diabetes Mellitus

Michelle Ferrera, DVM

Some of you may know someone who has diabetes mellitus, also called sugar diabetes. It may come as a surprise to know that dogs and cats can also be afflicted with this illness.

One of the first things that a pet owner may notice is that their dog or cat has been drinking more water than usual. They may also see that their pet is going to the bathroom to urinate more frequently, or passing a larger urine volume than is normal. Pets that are seriously ill with diabetes may have a fruity odor to their breath (ketosis). These animals must be seen immediately by a veterinarian.

It is important to seek veterinary attention right away whenever you notice that your pet is deviating from any regular pattern of behavior. This is especially the case with diabetic pets. A physical exam, bloodwork, and urinalysis are performed to confirm the diagnosis, and to rule out any complicating health issues. Insulin injections are the typical treatment, and usually need to be given twice daily. We teach pet owners how to give their pets insulin injections right in the office.

It can take a week or two to make sure that your pets insulin dose is controlling his blood sugar well. Periodic testing in this time may be necessary to accurately adjust the dose. Some pets can be difficult to regulate, and may need more involved testing to make sure the insulin is working properly.

Some clients monitor their pets blood sugar at home with glucose monitors. Some come in for periodic testing of a fructosamine value. Observant owners can tell if their pet is doing well or not based on the amount of water they drink and how much they urinate.

Complications of diabetes can include cataract formation, diabetic neuropathy (weak legs), urinary tract infections, and diabetic coma ( if the blood sugar goes too low). It is important to communicate closely with your veterinarian so that the chance for serious complications is minimized.

Diabetes is a treatable illness in pets, and many pets do well for years after this diagnosis. However, it does require a commitment by the owner to give insulin injections on schedule, and to always be extra observant of their pets health. Be sure to contact your veterinarian if you have any questions regarding this or any illness.