Diabetes Melitus comes in two varieties, Type I
and Type II diabetes.
Type I diabetes is characterised by very low levels of insulin
secretion, or no insulin (a substance which is responsible for sugar
processing in the body) production at all. Patients with type I diabetes
face a life threatening illness if not treated with insulin.
Type II diabetes results from inadequate or delayed insulin production.
Many patients with type II diabetes can live quite happily on controlled
diets and without insulin supplementation.
What really happens?
Reduced amounts of insulin causes decreased
ability of certain tissues to use glucose, especially muscle, fat
tissues and the liver. I trying to overcome this, the body mobilises
reserves of other energy sources such as proteins and fatty acids, which
can lead to muscle wastage, weight loss and fatty accumulations in the
Because the body can use less glucose as an energy source, it builds up
within the blood. Once the amount of glucose in the blood reaches a
certain level it overwhelms the kidneys and starts to be excreted in
urine. This has a diuretic affect and increases the amount of urine
being produced, causing your pet to go to the toilet more frequently.
This fluid loss from the body increases thirst, so your pet needs to
drink more water. High levels of glucose in the blood can also lead to
cataracts forming in the lens of the eye (the pet can't see).
Who gets Diabetes Mellitus?
About 1 in 500 pet dogs or cats will develop
diabetes. The most likely to be afflicted are obese animals, female dogs
around 8 years of age and cats of any sex between 8 and 13 years old.
Other risk factors include severe pancreatitis, long term corticosteroid
and hormone use and some immune-mediated diseases.
What do I look for?
Initial signs are:
Polydipsia and Polyuria
(drinking lots and peeing lots)
Polyphagia (eating a lot)
Long term signs are:
Repeated urinary tract
Cataracts in dogs (often see
Cats can be standing and
walking with the hock joints ("ankles") on the ground (plantigrade
How does the vet test for
Blood test is an essential part of finding out if
diabetes is the problem, giving repeatable, high blood glucose readings.
Blood glucose will also be high if a sample is taken when pets are
stressed, such as after traveling in the car or if a little shy of
Glucose present in a urine sample.
Can it be cured?
Diabetes can be treated but not cured. With a
consistent diet high in fibre, complex carbohydrates and low in fats,
insulin supplementation can stabilise blood glucose levels. Obese pets
need to gradually reduce their weight and pets that are at a healthy
weight need to keep their calorie intake constant.
Every pet is an individual when it comes to amount of insulin required
to maintain blood glucose levels. Regular blood and urine glucose
testing is needed to keep the insulin at a safe dose which "does the